Head to La Bamba for South of the Border grinds

Since June 1996, La Bamba Mexican Restaurant has provided the island of Kaua‘i with the finest Mexican cuisine. Today, it flourishes in the heart of Lihu‘e.

According to co-owner Ana Munoz, she and husband Omar originally had a different food venture in mind.

“Around 1996, my husband and I were looking to open a bakery,” Munoz said. “It just so happened that on Rice Street there was a little place, a hole in the wall, that was getting ready to sell their business.”

It was explained to Ana and Omar that the location they were shown on Rice Street used to be a Mexican restaurant, and Ana and Omar had an epiphany.

“A light bulb went up and we’re like, ‘What if we opened a Mexican restaurant?’” Munoz said. “I have experience with public relations, he has experience, over 10 years, with cooking. That’s where our dream story started.”

Two years later, with business booming, Ana and Omar decided to spread their fine Mexican cuisine to Koloa.

Some of you might remember that restaurant: Mi Casita.  

“We had that restaurant for eight years,” Munoz said. “We had to close it down because in 2000, because we opened La Bamba (at Kukui Grove Center) and road construction on Rice Street was killing our other business there.”

With La Bamba in Kukui Grove flourishing, Ana and Omar decided it was logical for them to focus on one business.

“Things started to balance out, so we decided to better this business,” Munoz said. “A few years later, the economy just took a slope down, so it was good timing for us.”

I was stoked when Munoz spoke about some of  the dishes at La Bamba. After all, La Bamba is my absolute favorite place to grind some ono Mexican food.

Munoz recommended three authentic Mexican dishes that will have you running to La Bamba in no time — the tamales, $14.95; chile relleno, $13.95; and the famous Chile Verde Tradicional, $14.95.

First on the menu was the tamales.

“We home-make our tamales,” Munoz said. “It comes with two tamales, smothered with ranchero sauce or enchilada sauce. We bake the cornmeal, and it just melts in your mouth when you take a bite. It has a big mouthful of meat, chicken or beef. Our tamales also comes with rice and beans.”

The next dish was the chile relleno. This dish is made with chile poblano stuffed with cheese and deep fried with egg batter. It is topped with cheese, ranchero sauce and is served with rice and beans.  

“All of our sauces are homemade,” according to Munoz. “The chile relleno doesn’t have any meat, but it’s very tasty. It’s like Mexican bell pepper. We use the chile poblano, so it’s a little bit wider, bigger. We remove the seeds and deep fry it in an egg batter, which makes it very fluffy.”

The last dish (and my personal favorite) is the chile verde. This dish consists of roasted, tender pork marinated in fresh and spicy green sauce. It’s served with rice, beans and your choice of either corn or flour tortillas.

“This is served on a whole plate,” Munoz said. “There’s chile verde on the side with rice and beans. It comes with tortillas. You dip the tortilla in the chile verde.” With more than 29 authentic Mexican appetizers and dishes, you’ll have trouble picking your next meal at La Bamba.

Whatever you pick, it will be very tasty and worth every dollar.  

La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, located in Kukui Grove Center on 3-2600 Kaumuali‘i Highway in Lihu‘e, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information call 245-5972.


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