In Search of Fish Tacos in Hawaii

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In Search of Fish Tacos in Hawaii

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Jan 26, 2009

My cousin Stefanie vacationed here in Hawai’i last week.  She arrived on the tail of the winds we were experiencing and seemingly ushered in the sun we’ve enjoyed ever since she arrived.  It was a bone-chilling minus 2 degrees in Kansas City when she boarded her flight for Kaua’i.  They had to de-ice her plane twice before take-off.  (And here I was complaining about what turned out to be merely moderate winds and a good, much-needed rain.)

Stefanie loves Hawai’i, and, in particular, Kaua’i.  She was here last March with her mom.  A mere 10 months later, she returned with her boyfriend.  Normally Stefanie is a quiet, somewhat shy woman, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what she wants.  When Eric and I invited the two over for dinner one night, I asked Stef if she had any special requests.  She didn’t hesitate.

“Fish tacos,” she said.

And I made my shopping list:  mahi mahi, mango salsa made on Kaua’i, cabbage, Monterey jack cheese, fresh guacamole, sour cream and pre-cooked tortillas that you brown and serve yourself.

We sampled Eric’s grilled mahi mahi and declared it the juiciest and tastiest ever.  We piled on the fixings and ate one, then another and, even, another.  Everyone was quite sated at the meal’s end.  So full, in fact, that we had to wait an hour before we enjoyed our bowls of mango ice cream.

When I asked Stef where they were headed the next day, she said Anini Beach.  With fish tacos still fresh on my mind, I said, well, if you like fish tacos, you’ve got to try Barr’s.

Barr Surles operates Anini Beach Lunch Shack.  It’s not really a shack, though.  That implies a permanent structure.  Barr’s restaurant is a lunch wagon.  When it’s time to open the restaurant, Barr drives his van up to Anini and opens a window.

“Try the Sara Special,” I told Stef.  “It’s fish tacos with a double order of fish.  Barr fries his fish and serves his tacos with a yummy jalapeno and cilantro sauce,” I said.

“If you really like fish tacos,” I continued.  “The Hanalei Gourmet on the north shore serves up yummy fish tacos every Thursday night.”

I was on a roll now, reciting all my favorite fish taco eateries.  “And Duke’s Canoe Club in Lihue is known for their fish tacos, too.  Go for lunch.  Great views of Kalapaki Bay.”

I’m not sure if Stef made it to all these locales or not.  Even if she had, she might have ruined her taste for fish tacos for good.  Too much of a good thing-especially when it comes to food-isn’t always a good thing.

But the conversation has stuck with me.  I could easily draw up a map of Kaua’i featuring one fish taco delight after another, encircling the entire island.  But I’m not such the fish taco expert on the other main Hawaiian Islands.  I am headed to Maui next month and Big Island the month after that.  Anyone have any fish taco restaurant recommendations for me on either of those islands?

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