A Spicy Taste of Veracruz In Koloa

Michelle Williams and owner Miguel Baldera

“My mom made mole every weekend,” Miguel Baldera tells me as we sit at a shaded picnic table. “I remember when I was 3 or 4 years old, my mom made me mole pavo(turkey) for my birthday. It was so rich and good, and really spicy!”

Growing up in Veracruz, Mexico, Baldera could be found in the kitchen helping his mother and grandmother prepare meals. This love for food has guided him through many years and restaurant kitchens before opening Chalupas, his new taco truck in old Koloa town.

Baldera creates tasty graband-go Mexican food using family recipes and carefully chosen ingredients. Pork from Kaneshiro Farm is slow cooked in a zesty Veracruz tomatillo sauce, resulting in succulent carnitas; Kalaheo beef is braised top half of the bread; local avocado, zesty cabbage slaw and pickled jalapeno are piled on top of the meat.

The Chalupa ($9) is like a tostada only the tortilla isn’t dry and crunchy. Two semi-fried corn tortillas are smothered with beans, meat, cabbage slaw, tomato, fresh avocado, salsa, pickled jalapenos and queso fresco. With beans and rice on the side, it makes a delicious, budget-friendly meal.

Chicken taco with spicy red sauce (left) and shrimp taco with salsa fresca. Daniel Lane photos

Bandera serves up tasty food in a flash, and the menu allows you to mix and match your heat and meat. Besides the barbacoa and carnitas, you can choose from marinated and grilled fresh fish, chicken or steak.

Salsas are made fresh daily and include tangy tomatillo, mild salsa fresca and my favorite: a spicy red sauce made with rehydrated chipotles, or smokedried jalapenos. For a rich and very spicy treat, try the Shrimp Diabla ($10). The shrimp are quickly sautéed before Baldera finishes them in the fiery red sauce. If you can’t handle the heat, you can request a milder version. Either way, you won’t want to leave any of that good sauce behind, so Baldera provides soft corn tortillas to sop it up.

Juicy chicken is thinly sliced for the Chicken Tacos ($7.50) that are topped with a cabbage slaw. Every day, Baldera combines the cabbage with cucumber, carrots, onions, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. The marinade softens it all, so unruly slices of raw cabbage don’t fight you for a bite.

Baldera cooks the barbacoa and carnitas in a commercial kitchen, and this extra step adds authentic flavor while making the meat fall-off-the-bone tender. Bold and bright flavors come through each meal; even the side of rice, cooked with tomatoes, onions, red bell peppers, garlic and cilantro, is bursting with flavor.

Casual Chalupas in old Koloa Town. Daniel Lane photos

Loaded barbacoa chalupas

The truck is off the main street in Koloa. Turn south at Island Soap, go down one block and you’ll see a green, red and white truck with a happy cactus painted on the side.

Spicy Shrimp Diabla

Baldera has extended a special offer to our readers: “If you come between now and the end of August, and mention you read about me in MidWeek Kaua’i, I will give you $2 off each order.”

Now that’s a bargain!

3477 Weliweli Road, Koloa
Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.