The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, September 23, 1999

Fiesta types
crawl over to
La Cucaracha

AH, the cockroach (or B-52, as the biggest, ugliest winged pests are known here). Only bug wranglers, entymologists and weirdos would want the ugly insects around. The rest of us bait them with Borax paste and set out sticky traps to keep them at bay. To no avail, of course.

One thing no one wants to see is a reference to roaches and restaurants in one place. It conjures too many images of bug parts -- spiny legs, a sliver of wing -- floating in soup or something.

But a new Waikiki restaurant has adopted the cockroach, thankfully not for the menu, but as a cartoonish mascot. La Cucaracha is full of paintings of the roach, living it up with margaritas, tacos and burritos, for what is a roach but a creature that lives for the night and self-indulgence?

Sound like anyone you know? Send 'em down. The restaurant, open and casual, is geared toward the fiesta set, with food more fun than serious.

La Cucaracha Bar and Grill


Bullet Address: 2310 Kuhio Ave. #102
Bullet Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Bullet Prices: Dinner for two about $18 to $30 without drinks
Bullet Call: 922-2288

The restaurant is at Kuhio Avenue and Nahua Road, opening to Nahua's pedestrian traffic, which was a bit uncomfortable. I prefer to have glass or at least some plants separating me from those who might want to peek in at my dinner.

In addition to the "cucaracha" paintings -- which resemble Day of the Dead skeleton figures -- the restaurant is colorfully decorated with lacey paper cutouts and a pinata or two, adding to the festive aura.

Need something to accompany that margarita? In addition to the Nachos Supreme ($7.95), topped with refried beans and a choice of shredded chicken or ground beef, there are Jumbo Shrimp ($9.95) wrapped in bacon and grilled, Deep Fried Chicken Wings ($7.95) or Deep-Fried Jalapenos ($7.25), stuffed with cream cheese (the menu says there's bacon in this also, but I didn't get any). The latter three appetizers are also gathered on one big La Cucaracha Sampler ($12.95), that also includes fries and a salad topped with guacamole. The sampler easily feeds three.

They do well here with the shrimp and Tequila Prawns ($12.95), slow-cooked in tequila for that perfect squishy-crunchy texture. Like the other house specialties, it comes with your choice of corn or flour tortillas, refried beans, a small salad and lime or Spanish rice. The lime rice had no special flavor, the Spanish, just a hint of tomato.

I got the feeling the cook here has more talent than is allowed to show due to budgetary concerns. A rich, earthy red mole was superior to the chicken strips ($9.95) under it. A light parsley (cilantro) sauce was a wonderful topping for Pan-Fried Snapper ($11.95), but the fish was like jerky, as if it had been cooked twice. Drunken Fish ($11.95), grilled snapper in a salty but addictive tomato, onion and chorizo sauce, had the same dry texture.

It's a shame, but until there is more commitment to quality, it's probably best to play it safe. Fajitas (from $10.50 for vegetarian to $14.50 for prawns) are always a no-brainer, as are the cheaper burritos ($3.95 to $5.50 a la carte/$5.95 to $7.50 complete) and chimichangas ($6.95/$8.95).

Even the Flan ($3.75) left much to be desired. It was nicely accented with cinnamon, but gritty with sugar.

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

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