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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Taquiera el Gallo Rosa

Restaurant Insider

July 23, 2023

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

ANNE LEE speaks with Taqueria el Gallo Rosa owner/chef FAUSTO ANTONIO GARCIA

Fausto Antonio Garcia has been passionate about cooking since he was a child. When the opportunity was presented to him, he took the leap of faith to move to Hawaii from his beloved home country of Mexico to open an authentic Mexican food experience called Taqueria el Gallo Rosa. The restaurant now boasts two locations: Kailua, which opened four years ago, and Ward Village, which just celebrated one year. I was able to try all the authentic dishes with homemade sauces, learn more about the menu and what this taqueria has to offer.

AL: How did this concept start?

FG: My friend Paul Bentley is a well-known chef with more than 20 years of experience. He used to come to Hawaii in the fall to create dinners on Molokai. I was introduced to Paul when I helped my uncle open up one of his restaurants in Mexico, as he would go back and forth from Hawaii to Mexico. We became good friends and we collaborated on lots of ideas. This opportunity was offered to my uncle a long time ago, but the timing wasn’t right. Paul knew that Hawaii needed an authentic restaurant that offers comfort food, and I had experience opening restaurants and training the staff, so it was due to good timing when I was offered this opportunity four years ago. We decided to open something fun and casual, and that’s how this menu and concept was created. It’s food that you would get in Mexico.

Mexican “Elote” ($9 vegan; $10 regular)

AL: What makes the cuisine here different and authentic?

FG: It’s authentic in the way we try to deliver the flavors that we commonly know in Mexico — with the products, with the recipes or trying to be as close to what we eat in Mexico.

The tortillas are made with corn from different states in Mexico. So, it varies shape, color, and the way of cooking and grinding.

Ceviche Tostadas (market price)

For instance, you will not find a burrito on this menu because it’s not part of a typical Mexican menu. It was used mostly for the immigrants that traveled to the United States or that had to travel long distances and they had to have a sturdy meal. I’m not saying you will not find it in Mexico, but in a taqueria, which means tacos, we sell tacos.

I have nothing against burritos, but in our project, we just tried to recreate as much as we could of what we eat in Mexico. That is what I want to make people feel every time they come here.

Birria Torta ($18)

AL: You also offer top shelf tequila and mezcal. Why was that important?

FG: It’s $8 for our Classic Margarita, which is a very good deal. We are not trying to be an expensive place; that has never been our intention. All of the drinks are from scratch. You’re paying for quality and authentic ingredients. Everything is from either Mexico, or we source it and make it as authentic as possible.

AL: What are the dishes that you prepared for us to try?

FG: We prepared the Margarita Oaxaqueña ($8.50), which includes mezcal, triple sec and lime and watermelon juice. We prepare the watermelon juice fresh every day.

Refried Beans & Chips ($8)

The Mexican “Elote” ($9 vegan; $10 regular) comes with lemon and habanero mayonnaise, cotija cheese and cilantro. Elote is the street corn found everywhere in Mexico. We have these little carts that people start pushing around the streets and they ring these little bells. You hear them from your house, similar to an ice cream truck, and everyone comes running to get an elote.

We also have some Churros ($7.50; Kailua only). It’s served with cajeta (Mexican caramel).

Churros ($7.50; Kailua only)

We have a great selection of tacos ($5-$5.50), too:

• Pastor: pork marinated in adobo, onion, pineapple and cilantro

• Carne Asada: grilled steak, beans, onion, cilantro and salsa roja

• Fried Fish Taco Baja Style Cabbage (market price): lime and habanero mayonnaise, salsa bandera, radish

• Pork Carnitas Michoacan Style: pickled onion, cilantro and tomatillo sauce

• Veggie: roasted poblano peppers, creamed corn, queso fresco and cilantro

• Chicken Mole: mole sauce, pickled onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, hoja santa and Mexican sour cream.

Tacos (prices vary)

AL: Anything else you want to share?

FG: We have trivia nights from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. It’s general trivia and it’s free to play. We also have a salsa night at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays. You can learn how to salsa with an instructor who will teach for 30-40 minutes, then people dance until 8. Last Friday, we stayed up until 9, so it depends on the crowd.

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