Super burritos, fish tacos and — gasp — chiles rellenos burritos are big sellers at the new Kahala location of Tacos Zarate, which opened Aug. 31.
4210 Waialae Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.
The restaurant offers something for every appetite, from small to ravenous, from $5 pico de gallo and chips to an $11.75 matahambre (translation: hunger killer), comprising grilled peppers, onions, melted cheese and all the meats the restaurant serves, offered with tortillas that function as the vehicle to get the hunger killer into the belly.
About the business: The restaurant’s 1,450 square feet is cavernous compared to the 410 square feet of Paul Zarate’s former spot on King Street, and immense compared to the food truck that was his first operation. He sold the latter in 2011 and stopped serving at farmers markets and other events in 2013 to open the King Street location.
Parking outside the King Street shop was prohibited for three hours starting at 3:30 p.m. each weekday, “and I didn’t have a real kitchen,” Zarate explained. He got by with a home-style electric stove, steam tables and some refrigeration.
The new place has a parking lot out front and the kitchen has a 12-foot hood, a deep fryer, a flat-top, a walk-in refrigerator and more equipment that has “increased our abilities to diversify our menu,” he said.
The bigger space also means Zarate finds himself in the kitchen less and managing operations more. At King Street, he said, “I could see and do everything, I could cook and still run the place.
“I’m the main prep cook — well, one of them, and I float around the line … but in the larger space it’s hard for me to cook,” Zarate said.
Still, he adds, “It’s definitely cooler in the front of the house.”
What to order: Fish tacos and chiles rellenos have been added to the menu. The tacos have proved popular with the East Honolulu crowd, and as for the chiles rellenos, “we do ours like a giant jalapeno popper,” he said. Chiles rellenos also are available in burritos and tacos, a presentation unfamiliar to many Americans. “It’s a total Norteno dish,” Zarate said, referring to northern Mexico.
Zarate’s mulita (“little mule”) quesadillas — meat and cheese grilled between corn tortillas — were popular items on his food truck, and they’re back.
The restaurant also serves beer, margaritas and tequila.
For those who like to know before they go, the menu is posted on the restaurant’s website.
How to order: The business is about 50/50 dine-in and take-out, Zarate said. It gets busy, especially around dinnertime, so phone orders are discouraged. “It’s better just to come in because when it gets crowded we don’t answer the phone.”
Online ordering will be available in the next few weeks. An app called Tacos Zarate will let users bypass the line, Zarate said. They’ll input their payment information, place orders, pay for them and either take out or dine in.
Grab and go: Pull into the parking lot from the Ewa-bound lanes of Waialae Avenue, across the street from Ross Dress for Less, and find a space in the U-shaped lot.