667 Auahi St. Honolulu
Phone number(808) 537-6585

I don’t profess to know much about Mexican food. I’ll occasionally go for a burrito or a taco— but I usually just get it at Taco Bell. Beyond that, I know nothing.

But the buzz around Cocina has long piqued my curiosity.

Photos of various creations by partner and chef Quinten Frye have been floating around social media for quite some time. Each has been diverse, and every photo has had three things in common: It is always colorful, it always manages to make me a little hungry and I’ve never seen Mexican food like this.

Plus, bottles of Mexican Coke and Jarritos make me want to order one just for the novelty of it.

The restaurant is a concept owner Danny Kaaialii and Frye have wanted to pursue for a while, having first met in Texas.

Here in Hawaii, they’ve masterfully married traditional Mexican food creations with a gourmet twist.

“We felt that there was a need for good Mexican food in Hawaii, and it is definitely a different take on Mexican food,” says Kaaialii.

With one ingredient, for instance, a carnitas taco is transformed.

“You’ll see obviously carnitas tacos all over Mexico, but it’s not very common to see head cheese being used,” he says.

Kaaialii is referring to Cocina’s Head Cheese Carnitas Taco ($5). To create these signature tacos, slightly crispy pork is combined with poblano, an orange relish, pickled jalapenos and cotija cheese.

That dish and the Fried Avocado ($7) have been part of the restaurant’s menu since day one. Half of an avocado is breaded with panko before it is deep-fried and topped with a Valentina (Mexican hot sauce) cabbage slaw for added spice.

Pair it with an Agua Fresca ($3), made with pineapple and orange juice, and a bit of simple syrup.

Like the juice used in its Agua Fresca, everything is prepared fresh daily. This includes daily baked hamburger buns for its hamburgers, and as much as they can Cocina incorporates locally sourced ingredients.

The restaurant is BYOB and Taco Tuesdays offer three or four types of tacos not offered on its regular menu for $3.

“Come try it,” says Kaaialii. “It’s pretty awesome food.”

This relaxed atmosphere features open seating to customers on a first-come, first-serve basis, indoors and outdoors.

Currently, reservations are not accepted.

Keep up with Cocina on Instagram and Facebook @CocinaHawaii.