Owners Patrick Mitchell and Rena Grimaldo pose in front of the mural in their new restaurant, Patricio’s Mexican Taqueria in the Kona Coast Shopping Center on Sunday. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Don’t judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its name.
Patricio’s Mexican Taqueria, located in the Kona Coast Shopping Center on Palani Road, may seem like yet another new place promising traditional, authentic Mexican cuisine in Kailua-Kona. Yes, there are mouthwatering tortas, ceviche, tacos, burritos, salads, tostadas, a salsa bar complete with spicy carrots and other familiar suspects, accompanied by beans and rice. However, there’s also something else — newbie restaurateurs Patrick Mitchell and Rena Grimaldo’s infatuation with Mexico that resulted in Patricio’s, which opened Oct. 8.
Prior to moving to Kona roughly eight and half years ago, the couple lived in San Diego, just a few miles from the Mexican border. There was no shortage of wonderful Mexican food at a reasonable price there.
While working on her master’s degree in international business, Grimaldo lived six months in Guadalajara, Mexico. She spent many hours in the kitchen with the senora of the family she lived with there, hearing her stories and learning recipes passed between generations. Grimaldo expressed her love for Mexico and its fresh, flavorful, sometimes breathtakingly simple cuisine.
Over the years, Grimaldo made salsa for her daughter’s teachers and her creations received a strong following. Whenever they hosted a party, Mexican cuisine was the memorable hallmark, according to friends and family. It wasn’t long before they began toying with the idea of opening a taco cart or truck and it grew.
Mitchell, a contractor, began building the restaurant in late June. The warmly decorated dining room features a mural depicting a typical scene found in coastal Mexican cities, painted by Kona artist Dennis Westerlund, and other vibrant paintings by friend Kai Ault.
The open kitchen allows the six employees, especially the cooks, to feel connected with customers and make the diners feel like they are part of the process. The cleanliness of the kitchen, freshness of the ingredients, the speed with which the food is prepared and the homemade goodness can all be seen, Grimaldo said. This taqueria wants to use as many local ingredients as possible and is interested in connecting with farmers and fishermen, she added.
Besides the owners, the other masterminds behind the dishes are head cooks Eduardo Sierra, a Guadalajara native, and Josefina Avendano, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico. Grimaldo’s favorites include the Baja-style tacos de pescado, white fish battered and deep fried to a golden brown, served with cabbage, pico de gallo and crema fresca, and the pork al pastor torta, a Mexican sandwich with pork marinated in a homemade chili sauce and slow-cooked to perfection, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and avocado.
Most items cost $7.75, but the menu’s price range is from $3.25 to $11.25. Vegetarian options and a keiki menu are also offered.
There will be specials every day, and the traditional comfort food/hangover treatment, menudo, will always be served on Sundays. A wide variety of drinks is available, including Jarritos, a popular brand of Mexican soda, house-made sangria and Mexican beers, Grimaldo said.
Patricio’s is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily for dining in or for take out. For more information, call 334-1000 or visit patriciostaqueria.com.