The first impression of Monico’s Taqueria Kauai might not be the best.
Because the spaces in the parking lot are for more than one business and are more for compact cars than larger vehicles, it can be a tight squeeze, and some SUV drivers find that annoying. They might even give up and leave.
Go ahead, park in that small spot, take the short walk to the front door, because what’s inside is worth it. You will not be disappointed.
This restaurant at 4-733 Kuhio Highway tucked in near the fire station offers fresh authentic Mexican food from 5 to 9 for dinner and 11 to 3 for lunch, Tuesday through Sunday.
On our recent visit Sunday night, we were seated promptly on the lanai on a cool evening, with the setting sun casting a pleasant glow. A bowl of complimentary chips and salsa quickly arrived at the table, and within minutes of being ordered, our watiress brought out the bottle of wine for my wife and two friends.
Then came the main attraction.
Mind you, the food isn’t cheap here, but it is good. Very good.
The veggie chimichanga was $16.95. Other items were in the same range. The chicken quesadilla was also $16.95, as was the enchiladas mole and the enchiladas verde.
The seafood burritos was $21.95, as was the seafood taco. Fish burritos went for $19.95.
The Monico’s special, their version of surf and turf, comes in at $27.95, but is excellent. It includes fresh fish, shrimp and a scallop sauteed with veggies, served over jalapeno crema and chile de arbol sauce, topped with carnitas and pico de gallo, and served with rice, beans and guacamole. You get your choice of corn or flour tortillas.
The dinners are not only fresh and delicious, with local ingredients, they are of generous portions. You will not leave hungry. Presentation is key here, too. They want the food to not only taste good, but look good as well. And it does.
Monico’s is a long-time favorite on Kauai, and opened about 10 years ago. But it recently moved to this new location, and it’s been well-received, with lunch and dinner times busy and catching the attention of tourists and locals.
And the waitress has the service down just right. They visit enough to keep tabs on anything you might need, but not too much, and they don’t disappear into the night and you never seen them again after your food is delivered.
The outside seating area is actually quite pleasant, despite the rush of traffic passing by on Kuhio Highway. The palm trees in the pasture next door add to the peaceful ambiance and make you feel as though you’re far away from the city.
Sometimes at restaurants, the tables are pressed tightly together and you feel as though you’re part of the conversation of everyone seated around you. Not so at Monico’s. They give you plenty of space to have a private conversation over your meal.
The inside seating is fine, clean and no-nonsense. It covers the basics. The outside offers more of a unique dining experience, so if the sun is shining and you like to be outdoors for dining, sit there.
There’s a clean, friendly, seven-seat bar with a big-screen TV, in case it’s drinks you’re after more than food.
They don’t take reservations unless you have a party of at least six.
Monico’s is a bit of both fine and casual dining, a place to stop by after a day at the beach, or a place to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or just a special occasion.
Monico’s takes its work seriously, and it shows in the staff, the food, the setting and the atmosphere. They will take care of you.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.