New Food Truck Brings a Taste of Venezuela to Honolulu
El Chamo owners turned their cravings for a taste of home into a business.
The Pabellón is Venezuela’s traditional dish of slow-cooked pulled flank steak in crushed tomatoes and garlic, served over rice and accompanied by fried plantains, beans and cheese .
Photos: Lorin Eleni Gill
Just outside the Don Quijote on Kāheka Street, a grinning surfer “chamo” beckons hungry passersby from his bright blue food truck with an arepa in hand and a surfboard in the other.
It’s El Chamo, a food truck with a mission: Bring an authentic taste of Venezuela to Honolulu.
Never tasted Venezuelan food? That’s exactly why El Chamo owner Gabriel Taveres and chef Mirey Alvarez opened it. After living in the Islands for about eight years, the cravings for home cooking just got too strong.
“We were dying, because there’s nothing like it here,” said Taveres, who originally hails from Puerto Rico but is married to a Venezuelan woman. “So, kind of out of our own need to eat something from back home, we said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do this?’ not only for us, but the people of Hawai‘i.”
El Chamo—a colloquial Venezuelan word for friend, buddy, bro or dude—offers quick street food and hearty plate lunches prepared by Venezuela native Alvarez to satisfy a surfer’s appetite.
The El Chamo truck is parked outside Don Quijote on Kāheka Street.
The traditional arepas (crispy and thick grilled cornmeal cake sandwiches) are stuffed with steak, veggies, shrimp or chicken ($8). There’s also an assortment of empanadas—Venezuela’s version is made with cornmeal and stuffed with beef, cheese, Domino (beans and cheese) or chicken and fried to crispy perfection ($5.)
The Garlic Butter Cassava with shrimp, steak and cheese ($10) is a delicious Venezuelan take on surf and turf, with peppery grilled steak and garlic shrimp laid across a bed of fried cassava (also known as yuca), a starchy tapioca root. We had to try the Pabellón, Venezuela’s traditional dish of slow-cooked pulled flank steak in crushed tomatoes and garlic, served over rice and accompanied by fried plantains, beans and cheese ($10). The savory meat and sweet plantains are a winning combo, although we wished the meat was a little more tender.
Do not walk away without dousing your arepa (or anything) with one of their five fresh, homemade sauces. Our favorites were the creamy avocado basil sauce and a burn-your-tongue hot chili pepper sauce. Dishes are made to order, and there was about a 15-minute wait, so if you had a large order like ours, go get your shopping done at Don Quijote.
This is arepa with creamy avocado basil sauce and a hot chili pepper sauce.
The Garlic Butter Cassava with shrimp, steak and cheese is a delicious Venezuelan take on surf and turf.
The empanadas from El Chamo are made with cornmeal and stuffed with beef, cheese or chicken.
El Chamo joins a couple more new Latin American cuisine restaurants on the island, including Barrio Café in Wahiawā and Mami’s Empanadas, currently located in Waikīkī near Honolulu Zoo. We’re sure glad to see this group of chamos grow.
Join us for an evening of fantastic food, creative cocktails and exhilarating entertainment as we celebrate Hawai‘i’s very best restaurants at the 2018 Hale ‘Aina Awards: Destination Delicious on Sept. 17 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Take a culinary trip around the world in one evening while you dine on artfully crafted dishes from Hawai‘i’s best chefs. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.