It makes sense, I suppose, that such a tiny establishment as Island Tacos in Wailuku sells such a large taco. Huge, actually—you start with one of those giant flour tortillas normally used for burritos, then add chicken, beef, fish or pork chunks and a mix of sweet cabbage, red beans, cheese, salsa and sliced jalapenos. And, if you like, a little bit of one or more of the many, many sauces kept on the Island Tacos counter.
Island Tacos is run by Chuck Harron—a sign over the sink modestly identifies him as the stand’s “Employee of the Month.” But at the office, we just call him “Taco Guy”—as in, “The Taco Guy’s open, right?” and “You know, that Taco Guy is really nice.”
Once just a small cart/oven contraption thing located on Main St., Harron’s operation is now located in a vacant lot on Market Street across from the Iao Theater. There are about nine benches and tables, a stone walkway leading across the sand from the sidewalk to the cart and a nice wooden deck to stand on when ordering. In the back, behind the sink with running water he set up, is what appears to be an old ice cream truck, painted red.
“Yeah, that’s in the works,” Harron said. “I’ve gotta make it all legal. I need to focus on that. I want to get permits for the whole island, and eventually bachelor parties, weddings, concerts and things like that.”
When he was on Main, Harron just sold tacos. But now his menu has expanded considerably. With your taco, you can now get a side of whole black beans (topped with cheese) and Spanish rice. Or if you don’t feel like Mexican food, you can get a hot dog (the bright red Hawaiian kind), with or without chili. He’s also making really tender chicken and beef kabobs, though not every day.
When I dropped by last week, he offered a taste of a new bean soup he’s been working on. Thick like chili, it was very good and flavorful.
“I can go a long way,” he said when I asked him how much further he could expand the menu. “I want to do kabobs every day, two soups and maybe a salad, too. I first need to get a good produce vendor.”
Harron said he moved to Maui seven years ago from Washington State. “I was on vacation, and pretty much a vagabond,” he said. “I came out here, ran out of money and had to dig my heels in. But I worked and worked, and saved my money.”
His prime location affords him a lot of regulars. “Oh yeah,” he said. “Wailuku Town people, janitors, bums, lawyers, doctors, politicians, all walks of life and from all over.”
So why get into this business of running a taco cart in the first place?
“To be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I wanted to be my own boss.”
But isn’t everyone who stands on that deck and orders food kind of your boss?
“You’re absolutely right,” he said after a moment. “They are.” MTW