Mexican Coastal Cuisine In Haleiwa

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 26, 2011
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Luis, Jade and Taryn Silva at Luibueno’s. Jo McGarry photo

I thought it might be best to sneak in a visit to Luibueno’s in Haleiwa before the surf gets serious and the winter traffic to the North Shore turns a 45-minute trip from town into two hours.

Open for just 18 months, Luibueno’s has captured the spirit of a Mexican coastal seafood restaurant in the middle of Haleiwa. And it’s easy to see why owners Taryn and Luis Silva have captured the hearts of North Shore residents and beyond.

“The emphasis is on fresh food,” says Luis, who spent much of his childhood traveling to his father’s birthplace of Guadalajara. “In Mexico, the seafood restaurants prepare everything fresh every day, and that was always important to us.”

Eating from taco shops and growing up in a home where his mother taught him to cook at an early age, Luis was exposed to traditional recipes, homemade sauces, spices and lots of flavor.

In 1991, when he arrived on the North Shore, he wondered where the Mexican taco shops were.

“It took a while to realize that there were none,” he says.

His own catering company followed, and before long Luis was gaining a reputation for his fresh, spicy, flavorful food among friends and visitors, and he found an enthusiastic audience in competitive surfers and their entourages.

Luibueno’s opened in 2010 in Haleiwa Marketplace (in the space formerly occupied by Rosie’s), and the Silva family with their gracious hospitality and good food were an immediate hit.

Today the menu reflects Mexican, Spanish and Latino influences with appetizers such Puerto Vallarta Style Sashimi (market price) sushi-grade ahi served over a bed of sliced cabbage and topped with slivered onions, cucumbers and house-made Vallarta sauce put a whole new spin on local ingredients.

Try the Campechana de Mariscos for a gazpachostyle appetizer that features octopus, scallops, shrimp and oysters, garnished with avocado, cucumber and onion and served with a crispy tostada and a side of lime. Or there’s the wonderful freshly caught ahi, grilled or seared ($7.95) then topped with cilantro, onions, cheese, roasted red salsa and a drizzle of housemade sauce and served in tacos, burritos or quesadillas.

There’s pretty much something for everyone on this menu everything from tapas-style appetizers, Vegetarian Paella ($22.95) and a 14-ounce Ribeye Asada ($26.95) topped with chipotle butter, grilled green onions and served with Spanish rice, to the rustic Caldo de Siete Mares ($27.95), a comforting, richly seasoned seafood broth brimming with shrimp, scallops, octopus, snow crab, mussels and fresh white fish.

“The response from everyone is really incredible,” says Luis, who is already anticipating a somewhat hectic surfing season. And while it’s most likely more work than they anticipated, the results are worth the countless hours spent perfecting the Luibueno’s experience.

“It is a lot of hard work,” says Taryn, who is a business partner and wife, as well as mother to the couple’s 16-month-old daughter, Jade, “But I am still proud every day when we hear all the good things people say about our food. That’s why we do it. The hard work and the stress is so worth it when you’re giving people something that makes them happy.”

Happy eating!

Luibueno’s Fishmarket Haleiwa Town Center 637-7717

Open daily, 11 a.m.-midnight

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