A Hot Haleiwa Mexican Spot

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - June 23, 2010
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Luibueno’s Luis Silva

It’s been a busy few months for Luis Silva and his wife Taryn. The two realized their dream of opening their own restaurant when Luibueno’s Mexican Seafood and Fish Market opened in Haleiwa in March, and two weeks ago Taryn gave birth to a baby girl.

“We are so happy, so happy,” says Silva, positively oozing enthusiasm and joy.

He should be. His Haleiwa restaurant, on the spot where Rosie’s Cantina sat for decades, has opened to rave reviews from North Shore residents and is attracting attention islandwide.

You can tell there’s something different about Luibueno’s before you even go inside. Outside there’s a friendly, helpful hostess greeting people, handing out menus and answering questions. You might even find the gregarious young owner welcoming guests himself.

Inside, the contemporary, renovated dining room is a little low on space but high on atmosphere. The staff seems charged up by positive comments from happy diners and race to put house-made chips, spicy salsas and water on the table almost as soon as you sit down.

None of this refreshingly great service is a coincidence.

“We worked on everything for a long time,” says Silva. “We created a manual of how to treat our customers - we made a handbook for our staff. We knew that treating people well would be critical.”

Once the menu arrives, a quick glance shows that there’s been as much attention paid to the culinary details as to the customers. The dishes are mostly Mexican-inspired with a hint of Spain (paella, sangria, tapas-style plates), many of them featuring fresh, locally caught fish. There’s even a counter on the lower level of the restaurant where you can buy fish to take home.

“We wanted to support the local industry,” says Silva. “This seemed like a great place to sell fish.”

If the aim of Luibueno’s was to create a European-style, coastal village-type eatery, then Silva can consider his mission already accomplished. Ceviche, homemade salsas, chips and perfectly executed dishes like blackened ahi tacos and carne asada, burritos, fresh fish and shrimp, and superior, made-from-scratch margaritas make up a menu that’s a refreshing change from the “authentic Mexican” fare often seen on Oahu.

Meals for kids offer more than the standard mac and cheese fare, and kids portions are actually smaller versions of quality adult food, rather than large plates of tasteless goo.

Fishing boats in the harbor nearby and the generally laid-back attitude found on the North Shore make hippie Haleiwa the perfect backdrop for this delightful and vibrant new restaurant.

But I can’t help hoping there might one day be a Luibueno’s Honolulu.

Happy eating!

Luibueno’s Mexican Seafood and Fish Market
66-165 Kamehmeha Hwy., Haleiwa

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