Hawaii does not have nearly the same level of Mexican influence that L.A. does. Whereas on the mainland, it is really beneficial to have all the signs and instruction booklets in English and Spanish, in Hawaii it is much more practical to have them in English and Japanese. However, my friend Marie at the Latin Business Association, would kick me if I said we had no Hispanic population whatsoever. We certainly have a number of Mexican restaurants, but without a large Hispanic population, there really isn't anyone who would notice if they got it wrong. Nevertheless, they certainly are popular enough.
My favorite Mexican restaurant used to be Compadres in Ward Center. They were always a little more upscale than any other Mexican restaurant, and were part of a California based chain (both things which always made me wonder if this wasn't more oriented towards gringos). But their food was always fresh and tasty to me. I particularly liked their taco fiesta platter for two, which gave you a nice warm stack of tortillas, some beef, some chicken, some pork, some cheese, some guacamole, some sour cream, some jalapenos, and a few different types of salsa, and let you build whatever combinations you wanted. I think the variety of little dishes just appealed to me, as did the ability to assemble whatever I wanted. But, was this really how families in Oaxaca eat? Since our Compadres abruptly closed (as did most of the chain), I will never really have the chance to compare. I've also needed to find a new place of my Mexican fix. I know that Jose's on Koko Head has been around for a long time, but somehow they've never clicked for me. Residents on the Aiea side certainly swear by Banditos, but it's a little far to go just for a burrito. But I found a small little watering hole, right in Market City Shopping Center, called Torito's Mexican Food, that not only serves what I perceive to be authentic Mexican, but definitely some of the best Mexican food I've ever tasted.