First Look: Pāʻia Fish Market Opens in Waikīkī With the Best Kind of Happy Hour
Shrimp taco fans, unite! The casual Maui restaurant just opened its first location on O‘ahu and we’re hooked.
Photos: Katie Kenny
Shrimp tacos. Shrimp tacos. Shrimp tacos.
I’m truly invested in the Beetlejuice theory that if you repeat something at least three times, it will appear. Ever since the North Shore Tacos food truck up and left Waikīkī without any warning, I’ve been on the search for a taco fix of the shrimp variety.
I annoyed neighbors, colleagues and visiting friends almost on a daily basis about the lack of a decent substitute to the food truck that ghosted me.
And then it happened.
Shrimp tacos. Shrimp tacos. Shrimp tacos. Voilà!
A smiley blond lady outside of the entrance to The Laylow hotel on Kūhiō Avenue handed me a flyer for a new eatery opening that day and it had my dish of choice listed next to a variety of fresh fish plates: Pāʻia Fish Market was the answer to my excessive rambling.
Originally from the hippie surfer town of Pāʻia, Pāʻia Fish Market now has a total of four locations, with the brand-spanking-new Waikīkī spot being the first outside of Maui. It’s still early, so here are our initial reactions:
You guessed it: shrimp tacos ($6–$14.95). They sure don’t skimp on the shrimp here. Whole, thick, fresh shrimps are layered with chopped lettuce, tomatoes and salsa on soft Maui corn tortillas. Was that a slight crunch in the taco? Served with crisp cole slaw, house-made tartar sauce and a choice of Cajun rice, home fries or french fries (we opted for the skinny and crunchy fries).
Its $7 happy hour. Right now on the chalkboard out front it says that the happy hour is all of the hours (all day) during its grand opening period. Your hard-earned $7 gets you one taco and one draft beer. This is my dream.
The Mahi Burger ($11). This flakey and buttery fillet is a substantial piece of perfectly seasoned fish. Placed on top of a healthy dollop of the homemade tartar sauce and topped with grated cheddar and Jack cheese, a tomato slice and slaw, this big boy means business.
Pāʻia Fish Market’s signature Fresh Catch Plates (market price). You’re given a variety of fish options (mahi mahi, ono, snapper, ‘ahi, salmon and opah), sizes (six or eight ounces) and four ways to prepare your selection. We asked for our six-ounce mahi to be sautéed in butter, wine, fresh garlic and lemon.
Every new place is going to have initial growing pains and you just hope they’re pains that can be easily healed.
Seating. As spacious as Pā‘ia Fish Market is, there are not a lot of tables. Diners at the casual eatery line up to order at the sole register and then take a number to their table. As there doesn’t appear to be a floor manager, we’ve noticed on two occasions that people grab tables before even lining up so those with food coming at them have nowhere to sit and laptop loungers take up one of the four tables on the lānai for hours during lunch and dinner service (without so much as a beverage or meal).
The Fish & Chips ($13.95–$15.95), or what they should really be called, deep-fried fish fingers on skinny fries. When fish is that fresh, it’s hard to go wrong, but in this case we found that the deep-fried fish was overcooked and the ratio of fish to fries and slaw was a bit small.
Go to Pāʻia Fish Market now. Yes, there are a couple little hiccups, but with 30 years of restaurant experience, this seafood spot will have it all figured out in no time. You’ll find me and the doggo chilling on the lānai with a local brew and shrimp tacos.
Pāʻia Fish Market, open daily 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., 2299 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 200-0200, paiafishmarket.com