40 Years of Livin’ La Vida Deliciosa!Columns Lite Bites
September 8, 2013
Story By: Michelle Lee | Photos by: Nathalie Walker
When Jose Martinez and his family moved to Hawaii from New Mexico almost five decades ago, he had a dream to open up his own Mexican restaurant. This November, his namesake eatery Jose’s Mexican Café and Cantina celebrates 40 years in operation.
Still owned and managed by members of the Martinez family, Jose’s has become a staple in the Honolulu community for freshly prepared, flavorful Mexican fare.
“Since we first started, our menu has not changed much,” says general manager Brian Martinez. “Our recipes are the ones we grew up cooking and enjoying at our own family gatherings.”
Menu favorites, such as Macho Nachos ($14.95) and Jose’s Firehouse Chili ($2.50 for a cup) take classic Mexican dishes and elevate the flavors by utilizing a more refined cooking process.
“With our chili, rather than throw everything in a pot from the start, we prefer to sear and season the meat and vegetables separately first before combining them,” says Martinez. “The outcome is phenomenal because you can taste each component so beautifully.”
Truly the product of a family of talented home cooks, Jose’s makes all of its featured sauces from scratch. The famed Chili Rojo Burrito ($14.95), a dish of slowly simmered pork, combines fresh jalapenos and chopped garlic in a red chili sauce. “The sauce has the perfect amount of spice,” says Martinez.
While nothing on the menu will shock customers, therein lies the beauty of Jose’s. “Our cuisine is comforting and consistently delicious every single time,” he Martinez.
One of the restaurant’s best-sellers, Enchilada Suizas ($14.95) offers two classically prepared chicken enchiladas stuffed with sautéed vegetables and garlic with ranchero sauce, melted cheese and sour cream. Like most of the entrées here, the plate comes with beans and Spanish rice.
Throughout the past few decades, Jose’s has become more than just a place to eat. “We have customers who have been coming here for more than 30 years,” says Martinez. “We see them grow up with us, get married and bring their families here.”
As Jose’s approaches its 40th anniversary come the first week of November, customers can expect many reasons to visit the beloved eatery.
“It’s going to be a week of endless food and drink specials,” says Martinez. “We are so proud of our history and want to share our joy with those who have supported us over the past four decades.”
Jose’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina
1134 Koko Head Ave., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.