Pau Hana Patrol: Jose’s offers delicious Mexican fare, drinks at a fair price
I like a lot of things about Jose’s, but the one thing I like most of all is that it’s on my way home. That’s a good quality for a pau hana destination, because sometimes, once I’m done with work, I don’t really have it in me to go out of my way for a cold one, you know what I’m sayin’?
Thankfully, Jose’s is right off the Koko Head Avenue exit from H-1, conveniently located for anyone in Kaimuki or East Honolulu who’s heading that way after spending the day downtown or on the road. And during those weekday pau hana, the dining room at Jose’s is bright with the afternoon sun, giving the place a nice glow.
Glow, that’s what I’m after when work is done. At this place, that’s likely to come from the friendly service and neighborhood vibe.
There’s nothing too fancy going on here, but you can get comfortable in a booth, get a drink and a little something to eat, and feel like you’ve found a safe haven.
Unless, that is, the place gets too crowded. Then you better be feeling pretty laid-back already, or the wait might leave you as wound up as when you started.
JOSE’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT
1134 Koko Head Ave.
» 3-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
» Margaritas, $3.50; grande $5.50
» Domestic beers, $3.25
» Imported beers, $3.75
» Chips and salsa, free with order
» Chicken tostada, $6.95
» Carnitas, $15.95
THE RESTAURANT has a comfortable Mex-meets-Waikiki vibe in the dining room, with comfortable basic booths, some greenery, a little bit of surf memorabilia and a little bit of Mexican imagery. Over on the bar side, it gets a little more basic, with a TV overhead, a functional bar and some small booths and high tables.
It’s the kind of place where a guy might stop in on his way home from the store and plop his grocery bag on the bar while he checks out the game and has a beer — and then if a friend or neighbor drops in he’ll have one more, talk sports for a while, and then be on his way. Those guys at the bar are in no big hurry, and nothing is moving all that fast. But if a dozen or more bar-goers with time on their hands have already staked out seats around the bar, be forewarned that it might take a waitress a while to get to you if you’re on the outer perimeter.
We dropped in on a busy day when the restaurant was short a body, so we did some waiting. I was grateful for my Droid, because I had time to check up on Facebook. But when the pretty server got to me, she was efficient, polite and responsive. Everything flowed, eventually.
PAU HANA at Jose’s is early, so you may want to stick with something on the lighter side. I like the chicken tostada, which is not huge, but is pretty satisfying with lettuce, tomato, a nice scoop of guacamole, beans and a crispy tortilla base.
My date got the steak fajitas, which were good at $16.95, though not sizzling on a platter as I had hoped. Still, it was a big plate of satisfying food, and would be easy to share between two or even three people.
For a big plate, I like the carnitas, which are definitely not diet food, but are the requisite mix of crispy, fatty, chewy and yummy. Once again, at $15.95, this is big enough to share.
As for drinks: Jose’s offers a pau hana discount on its house tequila margaritas, blended or on the rocks. An 8.5 ounce glass is offered at $3.50 instead of $4, and 16 ounce grande drinks are $5.50, down from $6.50. I can’t recommend these, because that house tequila is harsh, but some people are OK with it, so I’ll mention the special. You can get a smoother 16 ounce “back bar margarita” with Cuervo Gold, Cointreau and Grand Marnier for $8, and that goes down much easier. A margarita with even better liquor can be had for $9 or $10.
You can get your Coors Light, Miller Lite, Bud Light or Bud here for $3.25 during pau hana. Heineken and Heineken Light are $3.75 pau hana, along with a variety of Mexican beer, including Tecate, Dos Equis, Corona and what I like, Negra Modelo. Meet a friend, check out the game, and maybe you’ll even stay for two.
— Elizabeth Kieszkowski / firstname.lastname@example.org