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First Look: Taco‘ako in Kaka‘ako

This new taco shop delivers bold flavors and twists on classic Mexican street fare.


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A recent lunch at Taco‘ako, which opened in October on Auahi Street. The shop serves Mexican street fare—Tacos, Burritos, guac and chips—at lunch only.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

It’s hard not to immediately love a place called Taco‘ako.

 

Last month, this new taco lunch concept opened in the space vacated by Bevy Market on Auahi Street in Kaka‘ako. It’s the brainchild of Christian Self, who owns the neighboring Bevy. The award-winning bartender battles a gluten allergy and appreciates the variety of wheat-free dishes that are part of Mexican cuisine. (All tacos at Taco’ako are served on corn tortillas.)

 

And Honolulu can always use great street tacos. (Remember when Cocina was right around the corner, serving real-deal Mexican fare, including tacos stuffed with headcheese carnitas or beef cheeks? I miss that place.)

 

The menu at Taco‘ako is surprisingly comprehensive, with nine tacos (including a tasty vegetarian one with roasted cauliflower and chickpeas), four burritos, three tostadas and a slew of sides.

 

The taco menu is the most diverse—and where you should start. The shop offers the usual suspects of street tacos—carne asada, carnitas, shredded chicken, pan-seared fish—and a selection of more interesting fillings. There’s the lengua (beef tongue), salsa verde, onions and fresh cilantro ($4); tempura-battered avocado with black beans, slaw and crema (a creamy, slightly sour condiment similar to sour cream) with a punch of wasabi and chipotle ($5); and grilled octopus with salsa roja, cucumbers, pico de gallo and cilantro ($5).

 

From left: Roasted cauliflower taco, camarones with Korean mayo taco and carnitas taco.

 

The roasted cauliflower taco was one of two veggie options on the taco menu.

 

Self urged us to try the camarones (Spanish for shrimp), which combines beer-battered shrimp with mayo flavored with Korean bean paste, avocado crema, slaw and slices of jalapeño ($5). The shrimp was plump; the flavors were bold. There was just enough heat, just enough crunch. This was definitely a standout.

 

Seemingly simple but deceptively not, the carnitas taco ($4) featured shredded pork that’s fried, then topped with avocado verde and pickled red onions. The pork was drip-down-your-forearm juicy and the pickled onions balanced each bite. I was in heaven.

 

One order of tacos ($4 to $5 each) is a single taco.

 

Self recommended the carne asada burrito ($11), packed with rice, beans, pico de gallo, house-made salsa, avocado and crema. My co-worker, who has the appetite of a teenager, devoured the entire burrito within minutes, remarking that it was beany. In a good way.

 

The elote with cotija, cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro.

 

For fun, we ordered the house guacamole ($6), which came with a basket of crispy tortilla chips. (In my honest opinion, you never get enough guac.) The pickled veggies ($2) offered a nice palate break between tacos. And the elote ($5 for two half ears)—Mexican street corn topped with cotija, cayenne pepper and cilantro—was outstanding. I texted a photo of it to another co-worker who was stuck at the office—I know, not nice— and then thought about the corn for the entire week after. Yeah, I loved it that much.

 

My only complaint? The shop is only open for lunch. Because I’d want to eat this for dinner, too.

 

675 Auahi St., Suite 129, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday, (808) 824-2547, tacoako.com

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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