Jesus Santoya

Jo McGarry
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Friday - January 02, 2009 Share | | podcast Podcast |

Jesus Santoya


Owner of Just Tacos.

Where were you born and raised?

I was raised in Mexico and then moved to San Diego when I was about 8 years old. Both of my parents were born in Guadalajara.

Is Spanish your first language?

We have to speak Spanish at home - my dad insists on it!

How did you get your start in the food and beverage industry?

I was doing research for my business degree and I put together a plan for a taco store based on the In-N-Out (burger chain) concept. I believed that if they could make money with burgers, then I could with tacos.

People always come to Hawaii and say there’s no good Mexican food. What do you think?

(Laughs) Well, when I first came to Hawaii, I did think the same thing ...

Just Tacos in Mililani is a small restaurant, but it’s not just tacos.

Well, in the beginning the idea was to sell tacos, just tacos. But then I wanted to serve the world’s greatest tequilas, too, and include some of the dishes I’d learned to cook in Mexico. So this location in Mililani has grown to a full-service restaurant serving Mexican food - and fresh tortillas.

You make tortillas fresh every day. I love the taco machine that’s out front here.

Yeah, you get your tortillas here - you can watch them being made. It’s like one of the little taco stores they have in Mexico.

You have one of the biggest collections of tequilas I’ve seen in Hawaii.

Yes, we have 148 tequilas, including super premiums, and we have one of the rarest tequilas in the world, the 1800. At $75 a shot, it’s also one of the most expensive ones.

What should we order on a first visit?

Well, the molcajete is the most popular dish - it has steak and chicken and shrimp - and the ceviche is good. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with the house specialties. All the meats come from different regions of Mexico.

What’s the secret to great Mexican food?

It has to be the ingredients. If you’re not using authentic ingredients, then it can’t be authentic Mexican food. We import everything we can, and I go home as often as I can to find ingredients.

Just Tacos Grill and Cantina
95-1249 Meheula Pkwy.

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