Sazón De Hawaii: Barrio Café

Finding authentic Mexican food in Hawaii means visiting Wahiawā’s Barrio Café.

The lively restaurant and diverse menu are a reflection of owner Miriam Olivas’s lived experiences. “People ask me what kind of Mexican food do you serve,” Olivas said in an interview with Local Link. “It’s my kind; it’s what I created. I’ve taken different dishes from neighborhoods where I lived and then added in my little twist.”

Olivas said her parents are originally from Durango, Mexico, but she grew up in Ciudad Juárez before moving to El Paso, Los Angeles, and finally Hawaii, where the family has been for over 30 years.

“Barrio Café is kind of the story of my life, where I have been; Mexican tradition and then a little infusion with our local style kind of food,” she said. The menu features asada fries, a bed of crispy fries, melted cheese, and carne asada, then drizzled with avocado sauce and cream and topped with queso fresco and pico de Gallo, representing her time in L.A.

Another favorite on the menu is Mexi-Loco Moco, a 3x Award-winning green chili (made with pork & beans) tender pork over a bed of rice topped with cream, pico de gallo, 2 eggs over easy, & sprinkled with queso fresco. It’s inspired, Olivas said from the Mexican Moco Loco.

The Barrio Salad is from fond memories Olivas has of summers in Juárez. The salad is made up of crunchy greens from local farm Hydro-Ola topped with pico de gallo, cucumber, jicama, avocado sauce, house-made pickled onions, and a sprinkle of queso fresco. “Through food, I was able to share my culture. And touch people’s lives with something that you make,” Olivas said.

Established in 2017, Barrio Café is one of three eateries Olivas’s family has started since moving to Wahiawā in 1996. There is El Palenque, run by Olivas’s mother, Armida Duarte, and the Ceviche House.

Olivas is proud of Barrio Café “sourcing local ingredients by purchasing from local farms, such as eggs from our own Wahiawa Peterson’s Upland Farm, goat milk caramel (cajeta) made at Sweetland Farms, and salad directly from Hydro OlaFarm, a local hydroponics farm. We provide a range of Mexican food with a chef’s inspiring twists.”

Miriam Olivas in the kitchen with the Barrio Café team (Credit Barrio Café)

“It’s really the community here that makes this town so great,” Olivas told Honolulu Magazine. “As a business owner, it’s my responsibility to take care of my community, and you know what? The community will take care of you.”

Cover Photo Credit: Barrio Café

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