My 5 favorite tacos on O’ahu right now

Ten Years ago, no one would have claimed that Oahu was known for tacos. At the time, I enjoyed trips to California for an authentic Mexican meat-filled taco. But things are different now and these days, Oahu has some serious competitors. Here are five of my current favorites around town.

Lengua tacos and barbacoa tacos

Photo: Thomas Opungin

When Frolic Assistant Editor Thomas Obungen introduced me to Thyda Tacos, we stood near the Kaka’ako trailer, stuffing our faces and cooing over the meat. My order is lengua (braised cow tongue), whose well-executed versions are still out of reach on this island; Barbacoa (cooked beef cheek). Thyda’s palm-sized double tortillas have generous fillings of each meat, topped with a handful of cilantro and white onions. The lengua is succulent and delicious on its own, but with a sprinkle of lime and a drizzle of Tomatillo salsa, it becomes everything I love about a taco. Barbacoa is deep and meaty, juicy with streaks of crunchy fat. For me, Thyda serves the best Cali Street style taco in O’ahu. Pickled jalapenos and carrots are a colorful surprise when you flake the tin foil on the plate, and Thyda tops off grilled onions, tons of lemon wedges, and big servings of delicious salsa. Down to waiting in line for a deal? On Tuesdays, you can get tacos for $2.50 a piece.

1034 Queen Street, in front of Tint Shop Hawaii opposite Whole Foods, Tweet embed

SEE ALSO: Roll With It: Thyda’s Tacos Prove That If It’s Delicious, They’ll Come

Crunchy Carnitas Tacos

Tight Tacos Crunchy Taco Credit Thomas Obungen 5

Photo: Thomas Opungin

Tight Tacos on Wai’alae Street combine two of my favorite things: crunchy tacos and dinosaurs. The modern eatery is known for its leafy carnitas (which they sell a quarter pound on an adult plate) and house-made tortillas. Although the set of kiki is meant to be for little humans, plenty of adults who crave crunchy tacos order them. I’m not sure if it’s memories of walking to Taco Bell after elementary school or the many drunken nights that ended at El Farolito in San Francisco, but a fresh and crunchy taco strikes the heart differently — fried pun intended. These tacos are a texture bomb—a fried, amber corn crust, thin and crunchy, lends a toasted note to delicious carnitas, crunchy lettuce and shredded cheese. Very simple and very tasty.

3617 Wai’alae Ave., Tweet embed

SEE ALSO: Tight Tacos Bring Luscious Carnitas and Foodie Cred up Wai’alae Street

Fish tacos

Screenshot 2022 07 13 at 64138 pm

Image source: Taqueria El Gallo Rosa

I used to think I didn’t like fish tacos – until I worked at Taqueria El Gallo Rosa at the start of the pandemic. I was fascinated by the ancient technique of making nextamal (freshly masa tortillas made with stone-ground corn) and the single-origin corn that El Gallo Rosa was shipping from Mexico, each with a different colour, flavor, texture, and behavior. While I love the 22-ingredient mole, my favorite is the Baja-style fish taco. Slices of white fish lightly sautéed in beer and deep-fried with layers of habanero mayo, lemon cabbage, pico de gallo and horseradish. The crunch of the buttery dough is highlighted by the scent of Mexican oregano, and the creamy habanero mayonnaise is rich and plays well against the sour and crunch of cabbage and spicy horseradish. To take it to the next level, drizzle on a bit of Morita sauce, which is umami chile oil made with smoked dried jalapenos and other aromatics.

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Beria Taco

Barrio Beria Taco Maria Bourke Cafe

Photo: Thomas Opungin

If I lived in Wahiawā, or anywhere really nearby, Barrio Café would be on my frequent visit list. From French toast made from Kilani Bakery bread to the most delicious chili fries, schillas, sandwiches and even taquitos, this place is clearly a foodie run. And while I’m not a Beria fanatic, Barrio stands apart from the rest. The cheese is laid flat surface first, then one of the two tortillas containing the shredded beef and juice. A rich and juicy consomme with immense earthiness and spice. Even coming from Waimānalo on the Windward side, it is well worth a visit.

672 Kalani Street, Haywa, Barriocafe808

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