Taco Del Mar is not your usual fast food joint. Nothing on the menu is fried, and they offer whole grain and vegan options. Hungry folks, look no further if you want a big meal. They have plenty to fill your belly with out breaking the bank — the mondo burrito is probably the classic example. You won’t find a drive-thru here — their brick and mortar restaurant is sandwiched between 31 Flavors and Thai Cuisine in the Maui Mall — but the bright and clean dining room is worth parking for. They have wi-fi for customers, air conditioning, free refills and daily specials.
The menu is a build-your-own Mexican meal, like a cross between a deli and a taqueria. This style of burrito-making was the brainchild of Latino culture in the Mission district of San Francisco many years ago, but has since exploded nationwide. Taco Del Mar’s first store opened in Seattle’s waterfront district, where the owners were influenced by their college travels in California and Baja. Now Taco Del Mar is 200 restaurants strong, with locations in Hawaii, the West Coast and Florida. Franchise Brands recently completed acquisition of Taco Del Mar, adding them to their Subway holdings.
Mark Weiss, the Maui location’s owner, is not your usual entrepreneur, either. His background spans working for mom and pops, fast food chains like Domino’s and a recent five-year stint at the Grand Wailea’s front offices. “I have always wanted to run my own business,” he told me. “It has been a goal of mine for the past twenty years. I have been following what kind of new franchises are coming available on the market. I cam close to opening a Subway a few years ago, but it didn’t work out.” He added that it’s critical to have persistence — indeed, he works the line in his restaurant nearly everyday.
On the Thursday I dropped by it was already getting busy at 11 am. Early lunch diners were ordering the meat quesadilla on special for $5.49, and I saw employees making plenty of their signature mondo burritos, too.
You start your order by choosing your wrap, taco shell or flavor of tortilla. Then you choose proteins (or lack of), veggies, sauces and then watch it all get wrapped up in a tidy package. After that, well, you eat it.
The list of ingredients is huge: black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, Spanish rice, seasoned pork carnitas, shredded beef, braised chicken, ground beef, fish, sautéed peppers and onions (fajita style) make up the warm stuff. Then there’s shredded lettuce, chopped cabbage, pico de gallo, various salsas, guacamole, enchilada sauce, shredded cheese and sour cream. They are really flexible with how you want your fillings. You can have two types of beans, if you like, or two types of meat. It’s up to you.
Their daily deals are great. On Sunday kids eat free, meaning you get one free kid’s meal with every adult meal purchase. They also have a punch card promo: for every $5 you spend, you get punched, and after 10 punches you get $5 off your meal (Mondays you get double punches for your meal). On Tuesdays, they offer a taco meal for $7.99. On Wednesdays, all platters are $7.49. THURSDAYS? On Fridays two fish tacos go for $5, and on Saturdays meat nachos for $7.99. Also, after 6pm all Mondo burritos go for $6 and platters are $6.50 after 5pm.
Weiss said he’d like to see this TDM see the same success enjoyed by the Honolulu and Kona restaurants, and perhaps open more. After all, he said that the best part of being an entrepreneur is “the sky is the limit.”
TACO DEL MAR® was named one of “America’s Top 10 Best Fast-Casual Family Restaurants” by Parents magazine and one of “America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants” by Health magazine.