I love when restaurants tell me that they’ll kill me if they tell me what’s in the dish. It means things are about to get good. Their most guarded secrets are inevitably the most delicious and unusual. That’s just the response I got when I asked the chefs at Jawz about their Special Pink Sauce. But when given the option of eating more of it in ignorance, or imminent death following my learning its ingredients, eating more of it won over.
Jawz Tacos and The Special Pink Sauce have quite the history. Jawz started as a little roadside taco stand long before the food truck craze got popular, back in 1998. By 2013, the Jawz Taco truck won the Best Food Truck award in our Best of Maui.
The little fish taco and shave ice stand is a favorite for people heading to the beaches in Makena, and continues to this day. Their fare was so popular that they opened up shop in Azeka Mauka in Kihei back in 2003, but closed that location in 2011. Still, the taco truck kept on. Recently, they re-opened their brick and mortar store in Kihei’s Lipoa Center next to Valley Isle Fitness and the Charter Middle School.
Their newest location is a great spot to grab their wide array of tacos, burritos, nachos and salads. There are tables and chairs if you want to eat in their climate-controlled dining room that offers surf videos and and impressive salsa bar with more than a dozen embellishments for your tacos. But grab-and-go orders are also welcomed, and they have plenty of little containers so you can take those salsa bar fixin’s to go.
“Jawz has always tried to serve ‘surf’ food, tacos and burritos along with a fusion of Mexican and Hawaiian,” says owner Joe Baldwin. “Our very hot Roasted Habanero Pepper Sauce with pineapple and carrot or the Roasted Serrano Pepper with Papaya is a good example of this fusion.”
To go with their surf cuisine, their food is fresh and healthy with tons of vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Their tacos are always served in an order of two or three, depending on the size of the plate ($5.75-$9.25). It’s always served on a soft white corn tortilla with their signature cilantro rice, cheese, cabbage and the Special Pink Sauce.
You choose if you want beans–refried or black bean–and additional proteins, of which there are plenty. They have eight kinds of fillings, including four different fish (mahi, ahi, snapper and ono), steak, shrimp, chicken and pork. If you really have an appetite, order an XL plate, which gives you two protein choices, allowing you to go surf and turf.
Like their tacos, Jawz burritos have a build-your-own style that starts with a base of cilantro rice, cheese, cabbage and a mix of beans and proteins ($8.95-$10.95). If you want something a little richer, dunk it in the deep fry and get a chimichanga. It has the same filling options, but you also get guacamole and greens.
Jawz also offers a series of wet burritos ($11.50) that are smothered in sauce and cheese, with options like pork verde, chicken mole and steak ranchero. Then there’s a series of super-creative burritos like the California (it has steak and fries) and the Teryiaki Tofu burrito, just to name a few ($7.95-$10.95). Rounding out their specialty Mexican Hawaiian surf cuisine are the enchilada pies, quesadillas, fajitas, tostadas, ribs, breakfast burritos, BBQ pork sandwiches and nachos ($6-$12.95).
“We get all our fish from Eskimo Candy and our tortillas from Genesis, a local Mexican tortilla maker,” says Baldwin. “Our Jawz slogan is ‘Eat Healthy… Play Hard!’ We keep this ideology going from the food trucks to the restaurant. And we’re hopefully looking for some more locations on the Westside and in South Maui.”
Their trucks also appear at the Kihei Fourth Friday town parties, as well as two new locations starting mid May: Lahaina at 150 Dickenson St. behind Kobe, and Kihei next to Hitter’s Paradise. Jawz Tacos also does catering, and the trucks can be hired to show up at private events, too.
41 E. Lipoa St., Kihei
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.