Paniolos Fast Mexican Food Coming to Kapolei

Kailua-based Paniolos is bringing their burritos, tacos, and bowls — all made with local meats and veggies — to Kapolei Commons. They will be in the previous BIC Tacos space, mauka of the movie theater, between La Tour and Gyu-Kaku.

No official opening date yet, but a sign is up, they’re accepting job applications, and they seem pretty psyched to join us on the west side.

If you’ve been to a Chipotle on the mainland, the menu and ordering process at Paniolos will be familiar. You pick your preferred casing (burrito, taco, or bowl), then choose your base, your beans, your protein, and your toppings.

Paniolos Protein Options

You’ll want to know what’s going to be the meat of your burrito. Here are Paniolo’s six protein options:

  • Grilled Organic Chicken
  • Grilled Steak in Lime Marinade
  • Paniolo Steak: Grass-fed local, slow-cooked tender with chipotle peppers and adobo sauce
  • Kalua Pig: Slow-cooked in ti leaves with Hawaiian salt
  • Grilled Peppers & Onions
  • Organic Tofu: Sautéed with chipotle peppers and adobo sauce

Locally-Owned, Supporting Local Producers

Paniolos says that all their beef is grass-fed and locally-raised, and that they use local tomatoes, too. They name Molokaʻi Ranch, Kualoa Ranch, and Hawaiian Big Island Beef as three of their suppliers.

This is a locally-owned restaurant. Sara Lufrano, who owns Aloha Salads, opened it with a friend from Mexico, Tamara Valdivia. The two also developed the recipes. Here they are with another successful recipe developer.

The name, Paniolos, is a reference to a unique connection between Hawaiʻi and Mexico. When King Kamehameha was looking for experienced ranchers to handle his new cattle herds, he recruited from California — which was then still part of Mexico. The three men he hired were, of course, Spanish-speakers, and may also have been trained in Spain. “Español” morphed into “paniolo,” which became the local term for what mainlanders would eventually call “cowboys.”

The first Paniolos opened in Kailua in 2015, plenty of time to perfect their service and recipes. Hawaiʻi Magazine named Paniolos one of the 5 best places to eat in Kailua.

They have a 4.0 rating on Yelp, where people compare them either favorably or unfavorably to Chipotle. There doesn’t seem to be a firm consensus.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the Paniolo Steak protein option is exceptional. That’s the first one I’ll be trying when they do open.

Paniolo will join the many lunch options at Kapolei Commons, including recently-opened Young’s Fish Market. Sitting right next to the Regal Kapolei Commons, it will be a good option for an inexpensive pre- or post-movie meal.

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Here’s how the new location looked as of this morning.