Fish Tacos at El Pachuco

 

In November, I wrote a post about El Pachuco, the Mexican café at the bottom of my road. I love to stop by there to pick up supper for myself as often as I think I can afford the calories. When I drove by yesterday, there was a sign out on the road that said “fish tacos.”

Well, that’s my favorite way of having tacos, so I couldn’t resist going in. Evie had acquired some fresh ono, a delicious local fish. For $6 I had two huge fish tacos filled with fresh ono chunks lightly braised in olive oil, dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, grated cheese, and sour cream, plus beans and rice. Oh my!

“Ono” means “delicious” or “good to eat” in Hawai`ian and there is no doubt that these tacos were ono! Thanks again, Evie, for being there!

A hui hou!

El Pachuco

 

When I lived in Tucson, I had a friend who was dating a Mexican girl. He went to her family’s home for Thanksgiving dinner where they had a turkey and all the trimmings that we’ve come to expect in the USA. In the middle of the table, however, was an enormous bowl of refried beans upstaging the turkey. As American as they thought they were, they still had to have their refried beans.

So instead of writing about a more traditional Thanksgiving meal, I thought it would be fun to I talk about one of my favorite places to eat at any time, including Thanksgiving.

If you are a visitor driving around the island, please stop at Evie’s El Pachuco for some wonderful Mexican food. You’ll find it on the corner of Tiki Lane and Highway 11. Watch for it on your left as you drive through Ocean View going from the Kona side to Hilo. They are open from 11 in the morning to 6 in the evening, Wednesday through Sunday. Tamales are available on the weekends only.

 

Here is a copy of her menu so you’ll know what to expect. There are also weekly specials that are not on the menu. She promised to make a mole soon.

 

Evie was just delivering two plates of chicken enchiladas with rice and beans to two customers when I walked in. I restrained myself from grabbing one of the plates.

 

Back in the kitchen, her husband, Jimi, let me take pictures of the food in the hot serving pans – chicken, pork, rice, beans. He was making an extra batch of beans because they were about to run out. He’s the strong arm around the place.

 

A little background on Evie and Jimi Gonzales: Jimi was originally a welder shipfitter/pipefitter building commercial fishing boats. Evie was a bookkeeper. In the 70s, Jimi bought an acre in Hawai`i Ocean View Estates (HOVE) with $50 down. They continued to work in California while they paid it off. Then during vacations, he began to build.

Like many HOVE residents, Evie and Jimi eventually moved to Hawai`i to get away from the air pollution in California and to provide a better environment in which to raise their young son (now a DJ on Oahu).

At first their new home was a simple shell with no walls, but it did have an outdoor shower and outdoor toilet. Using the talents of his trade, Jimi built an outdoor cooking area similar to a barbecue pit where Evie made their meals over a fire – including even baking cakes!

About 7 years ago, Evie brought her mother back from Arizona to live with them. She also brought back a thirty-pound block of masa, planning to use it a little bit at a time. When she got it to Hawai`i, it was frozen solid. She had to do something with all that masa, so she made a big bunch of tamales, sat on the side of the road on the back of her van to sell them. Within a couple hours, she had sold them all, and decided that might be a good way to make a little money.

The kind of masa Evie needed wasn’t available here so she started buying small bags of maseca to keep the tamales rolling. She found a distributor and now buys maseca for tamales made of white corn in fifty-pound bags.

I first met Evie when she catered for a Leadership Conference I attended a few years ago. It was some of the best food I’d tasted since I left Tucson – and I knew Ocean View had a gem. But I didn’t know where to get more of her food.

Then I discovered her again one day on my way to our Ace Hardware here in what many residents call “The View.” She was parked alongside the road, selling tamales and more out of her van. For several years, I would buy Evie’s tamales on my way to pick up those items a homeowner can’t live without.

Then she moved down to the parking area of Ka’u Outpost on the highway, just down the road from my house. Almost every day when I drove home from teaching, I saw her sitting patiently on the back of her van. If I had stopped to pick up something every time she was there, I wouldn’t have been able to get in the front door of my house! But I did stop as often as I dared.

 

They have now found an indoor home in one section of the Ka’u Outpost, with little tables where you can eat or wait for take-out. If you’re lucky, she may have some freshly baked brownies or other baked treats to tempt you, as well.

 

I started this post to help spread the word about this special little Mexican restaurant, but didn’t realize I’d get drawn into such an intriguing history lesson. When I asked “What does Pachuco mean?” I was taken to an entirely new adventure. Evie said “It’s the description of a certain kind of person,” and began to tell this story.

In the 30s and 40s, young Mexican-Americans formed their own subculture and were called “Pachucos,” or “Chukes.” I had no idea they were the original zoot suiters. For great pictures and an interesting commentary on this era, check out this article. Also, I recommend that you turn up your speakers and go to this site to get a flavor of the zoot suiter. I’m old enough to remember guys wearing the zoot suit! There was no zoot suit for Jimi today!

 

Jimi came from Chavez Ravine, which is now the site of the Dodgers Stadium. Originally, this area of Los Angeles was the home of Mexican-American families tending their small farms. In the early 50s, L.A. declared eminent domain over the land and the home owners were offered a paltry sum of money for their properties.

The next ten years were violent ones as the owners resisted being ousted to make way for the Stadium. The unfortunate and sad story can be found here. There is a reunion of the Pachucos from Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles every July.

The story of Chavez Ravine and the Pachucos come together because Jimi’s father and Evie’s father were both Pachucos. The logo for El Pachuco, our very own authentic Mexican restaurant, shows a “Day of the Dead” (“Día de los Muertos”) character in a Pachuco stance, wearing an aloha shirt and khaki shorts. I love it!

 

To read a recent account of the situation at Chavez Ravine, read this article.

A side story: Jimi was cooking in the kitchen as I sat at one of the little tables talking with Evie. I had placed my purse on the floor near a door in the kitchen, but Jimi came running in to say I should get my purse up off the floor immediately! He said that if you set your purse on the floor, all the money will run out of it and you’ll always be broke. This site gives a more complete answer to that saying. It’s a sign of respect for your hard-earned money not to put your purse on a dirty floor. I don’t think my purse would ever get dirty on the floor of Evie’s and Jimi’s kitchen!

 

A hui hou!