By Vanessa Wolf
Here’s the problem with people who love everything: they love everything.
How does one distinguish between varying levels of superlative? Is awesome better than amazing? Does scrumptious trump mouthwatering? And what to do about delicious, delightful and de-lovely?
Darned if we know.
People who aren’t afraid to criticize, however?
Well, week after week it’s clear there’s plenty to hate on, but here’s the upside: when they tell you they have found outstanding authentic Mexican food here on Maui, then it’s time to hold onto your sombreros, compañeros.
It’s finally happened: real south of the border flavor in the 808.
Let’s start with the name.
Antojito is not the diminutive or nickname form of “Antonio” or some such.
Rather, literally translated as “little cravings” it’s what street food is known as in Mexico.
Things are off to a good start.
808 CH Antojitos itself is basically a food truck comprised of a pair of red trailers set across from each other in a parking lot a few blocks from Front Street in Lahaina.
The setup is a bit ghetto, and the menu is straight outta Mexico City.
The trailer at the start of the lot focuses on tacos and burritos.
The Suadero (Brisket) Taco ($2.50) is as authentic as they come. Shredded beef is topped with onions and cilantro. The accompanying red salsa (provided in a huge bowl on the table) offered a nice kick and some moisture to the mild meat.
The Lengua (Tongue) Taco ($2.50) was flawlessly prepared – rich, substantial but still tender. Hannibal Lecter would approve.
The Al Pastor (Roasted Pork) Tacos ($2.50) were our favorite of the three. The meat is carved off a spit and topped with slices from the pineapple roasting above it. Auténtico y delicioso!
The adjacent truck, however, is where the true culinary adventures take place.
The Torta de Pambazo ($6) is classic Mexico DF street food.
A pambazo is comprised of a Mexican bun dipped in guajillo pepper sauce and filled with chorizo, potatoes, lettuce and sour cream.
The 808 Antojitos version? What we said. ^^^
Greasy, meaty and packed with flavor; it does not get more authentic than this, mijos.
The Sopes with Chicken ($3.50), while familiar and mild, offer a great balance of crunch.
Most comparable to what we gringos think of as a chalupa (but served flat), sopes are fried dough topped with beans, chicken, lettuce, sour cream and cojita cheese.
This is not a light snack – you’ll probably crave a siesta shortly after ingesting it – but it is a mighty enjoyable one.
Speaking of gorditas, the Gordita de Chicharrones ($3.50) finds a well-oiled, flattop-charred torta (roll) topped with fresh chicharrones (pig skin with some fat still attached; also known as pork rinds) inside.
This is one greasy piglet.
Our Spanish isn’t what it used to be, but we’re pretty sure we heard an order issued from one 808 Antojitos truck to the other, loosely translatable as “DO NOT GIVE THAT GIRL ANY MORE GORDITAS. SHE IS MAKING A MESS.”
And making a mess we were: sitting at a picnic table alone, covered in grease and salsa and smelling delicious.
These things happen.
Ambiance is minimal – four picnic tables in the parking lot space between the two trucks – but service is friendly and helpful.
The menu is challenging even to those familiar with Mexican cuisine and the whole crew pitches in to find the appropriate English words to describe the meal you just ordered.
Speaking of which, don’t be alarmed by the sounds of the Huaraches con Carne y Nopales ($5).
The “sandal” (translation) is actually a fried cornmeal base the approximate size and shape of a shoe. It is then topped with beans, beef, nopales (cactus paddles), cilantro, onion and cojita cheese.
Not only is it flavorful and distinctive, we bet it’s one of the most unique things you’ll try on the island and an outstanding value at that.
The nopales themselves are sourced from a farm upcountry and made fresh. 808 Antojitos also offers a Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossom) Quesadilla ($3.50), but the winter rains wreaked havoc on the blooms so we didn’t get to sample it.
We did, however, try the Quesadilla de Hongos ($3.50).
Basically a mushroom grilled cheese sandwich with lettuce in it, it didn’t quite match our expectations of “quesadilla” but it was satisfying nonetheless.
Mild and comforting, little kids and those with tamer palates will go wild for this thing.
The Chicharrones en Bolsa ($1) were a bit of a misfire. We probably should have expected a Ziplcok baggie filled with chicharrones de harina (flour snacks fried in pork fat), so yeah. Upside: they heated them up for us anyway.
If you’re not overwhelmed by authenticity yet, you can wash all this down with Jarritos ($2) in tamarind, fruit punch or pineapple flavors or Mexican Coke ($2.50) in the bottle.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
808 Antojitos is located at 741 Wainee in Lahaina and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
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