Restaurant Review
Naturally Hawaiian Lunch Wagon

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

It’s hard to find a good burrito on Oahu. I know because I’ve tried. Sure, there are some fine Mexican restaurants, but if you’re really craving a burrito, you may as well catch a flight to Los Angeles, San Antonio, or Mexico. I’m talking a burrito that is big, sloppy, spicy, cheese-studded, bean-packed, rice-stuffed and vegetable-laden. It’s a tall order in Oceania, but I recently found one that met my high expectations. Hallelujah!

The blessed burrito was tracked down at an unlikely source: a lunch truck parked in front of Naturally Hawaiian Gallery and Gifts, on Kalanianaole Highway in Waimanalo. (Some may remember the truck from when it was called “Maria Bonita” and based in a different location.) Gallery owner Patrick Ching likes having the lunch cart around because it helps attract more visitors to his shop. There, Ching a painter, author, and cowboy sells his work, along with stained glass, Japanese-style fishing balls and Hawaiian-themed stationery.

The lunch truck is run by Diego Gallardo, a former construction worker. He began this business in 1998, naming it after his mother, Maria Bonita, and transformed himself into a Mexican-food impresario.

“Enchiladas are my favorite,” says Gallardo, who then admits, “I like them because they are easy to make!” The enchiladas ($6), chimichangas ($6) and burritos ($5) come in your choice of ground beef, shredded beef, asada (steak), shredded chicken, pork or vegetables (zucchini, onion, and peppers). All are served in a giant flour tortilla. On the side, you get a generous serving of homemade salsa that has a nice spicy kick. It’s not the kind of thing you can easily eat while driving. But there are wonderful beaches nearby to take it to as a picnic, and I can’t think of a better way to start a Saturday than to pick up a breakfast burrito around 11:00 a.m. and then roll on over to Bellows or Waimanalo Beach.

As with all great lunch trucks, this one has a little something for everyone. Frugal gourmets will enjoy the tacos, which at $2 seem like a steal. Fish tacos are just $3. Plate-lunch lovers will be happy to see the garlic shrimp plate option ($10), as well as the mahi-mahi plate ($7). Nursing a hangover? Breakfast burritos ($2.50) seem like an ideal cure. If you’re not a big fan of spicy food, you can try the ham & cheese ($3), tuna ($2.50), turkey ($3), or ham & egg ($3) sandwiches.

The food may be slow to arrive but well worth the wait. The pace is a sign of good home cooking and you can always look at Patrick Ching’s artwork (Naturally Hawaiian Gallery & Gifts) while you wait, or if you like, there are a few tables near the lunch truck available for customers. The small, shaded seating area is very casual, with round tables – some under umbrellas, some made of recycled electrical-cable spools – and green plastic chairs. We popped open a couple of cold sodas and waited in the shade while our food was prepped.

If you’re in a hurry, phone in your order. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, you can swing by to pick it up. Naturally Hawaiian is definitely worth stopping at especially for those of us with hardcore cravings for a good burrito.