Polli’s is a quaint little Mexican restaurant with a green tin roof and cement walls. It might as well be straight out of a Tijuana brochure.
You can find it on the busiest intersection in Makawao (the only intersection), where Baldwin and Makawao Avenues meet. It’s usually packed, with a 20-minute waiting list. But on the night that I was feeling the fiesta, the Makawao Rodeo was going on. That meant all the Makawao paniolos were busy and there would be plenty of tables to choose from.
On the inside it was slow but still buzzing with the usual mix of crowd in a Maui restaurant: the typical tourist, tasting his way through his travels; the lingering local; the beer drinker bantering with the busy bartender.
I took in the atmosphere. It’s got a pretty nice collection of Mexican paraphernalia, sombreros and colorful baskets hanging from the ceiling, highlighted by pictures of Mexico and tomatoes.
They appear to have a good theme going on, but then they also run the surf videos they’ve had in rotation since the dawn of time. I don’t know what extreme sports have to do with Mexican food, but hey—they’ve also got Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby” playing sometimes.
Doesn’t bother me, as long as the food’s good. Speaking of good, our waitress! We didn’t have to wait long before our server brought over a bowl of chips.
The chips! I’ve had dreams about these chips. They’re the kind that fall apart in your mouth. They’re the original chips. If I had an abuela, I would say these chips are just like my abuela used to make.
And the salsa is freshly made, too. I remember back in the great Tomato Crisis of 2004 when Polli’s were forced to $1 or even $2 per basket of chips and salsa. It was certainly worth the charge. But thankfully the crisis is now over and chips are once again free.
We dove in while our waitress took our orders. This seemed like the time to order some margaritas, and there’s quite a selection: regular, mango and strawberry. I suggest a mix of mango and strawberry.
The menu has the typical assortment of Mexican cuisine—burritos, chimichangas, tacos, chile rellannos, Fajitas, (your choice shrimp, tofu, chicken, steak and of course, all the fixin’s), Mexican pizza, enchiladas and steak dinner.
Wait, steak dinner? Of course, that was my date’s meal of choice.
As for me, when I’m at Polli’s I usually go for the fish tacos. They’re light and tasty—the key word being light, because after three baskets of chips, there’s hardly room for anything else. But on this night I opted for something new and went for the taco salad with beef.
The food came promptly. For a Mexican place, they’ve got a great looking steak dinner, complete with mushrooms and salad. The taco salad was just as pleasing, made with the same fall-apart-in-your-mouth chips that abuela used to make.
We got full quickly. Neither of us were able to finish our food. There was nothing left for us to do but assume the position of the very full and satisfied customers—butts scooted forward while leaning back to stretch out our bellies. Then we went home and passed out, which is just about the best indication of a great Mexican eatery. MTW