Taqueria Cruz

Is it written somewhere that a restaurant has to be in plain view? In my experience some of the best eateries are hard to find—nestled between or tucked behind. Taqueria Cruz is one of those places. Its location, in the back corner of the Dolphin Plaza across from Kam 1, certainly qualifies for “hole in the wall” status.

What it lacks in visibility it makes up for in the quality of its food—and prices. The most expensive item on the menu, a fish taco combo, is $8.95.  

As soon as you sit down you’re presented with nice, thick freshly made chips. I had to be restrained—or rather reminded—that there was more to come. The salsa was light, made with tomatoes that have never seen the inside of a can and lightly flavored with one of my favorite condiments, cilantro. Their tortillas are also made fresh every morning (by Fresh Tortillas of Maui, located right next door). 

Are you noticing a trend? One of their secrets, according to owner Jorjes Velez, is focusing on fresh. He believes it’s what sets them apart from many other Mexican restaurants.

Mexican food is often heavy on beans, light on more subtle flavors. Not here. They serve the traditional offerings, but with a twist. For example, it might have been my imagination but their taco carnitas had a slight kalua flavor and their taco pollo (chicken taco) was served in a (you guessed it) freshly made shell and very delicately spiced. The veggie version, not content to hang with the traditional bean and cheese crowd, wraps itself around a pablano chili (pretty mild as far as peppers go but very flavorful).

While I may stray at times, I always come back to the fish tacos. These guys kick it up a notch by offering them three ways—grilled, blackened or baja-style (rolled in flour). The burritos can be summed up in one word—big—with beans, rice, cheese and lettuce and your choice of ground or shredded beef, chicken, pork, fish or poblano. Not to belabor the point, but I’d also use the word big to describe the nachos. The amount of fixins—ground beef, jalapenos, cheese, etc.—left me wondering whether the chips had been forgotten. 

Restaurants are about history as well as food. Velez’s family has been in the business since 1951. He spent the last decade working for Dana and Michael Pastula—owners of Café O Lei—and says they helped plan Taqueria Cruz’s menu and décor.

Velez, wife Jenna and son Cruz will be celebrating Taqueria Cruz’s one-year anniversary on August 18. They also offer special Taco Tuesdays, and feature live music on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6pm-close. Final note: it’s BYOB (or BYOM if you’re talking margaritas). Maui Time Weekly, Nancy Kanyuk