By Anni Caporuscio

The Mexi-Moco is a fusion of Mexican food with one of Kaua‘i’s favorite breakfast dishes, the loco-moco.

Let me introduce you to Taco Libre, a new food truck in the grassy food truck zone across from Sueoka market in Old Kōloa Town. Taco Libre has been open since February, serving delicious, authentic Mexican food as a take-out restaurant throughout Kaua‘i’s Covid-19 experience.

Taco Libre is among the wittier food truck names on island, hailing from the movie Nacho Libre about a priest with a secret life as a luchador, which is a Mexican wrestler, characterized by elaborate masks and costuming.

When asked about their choice of name and theme, owners Aaleiyah Chinen and Christian Martinez referred to the parallels of their journey to become independent restaurant owners to the luchador’s struggle to keep fighting and enduring, never throwing in the towel, to get to where you want to be. It’s not easy being a restaurant owner, and even more difficult in the time of COVID-19, but Aaleiyah and Christian are helping to reimagine the function of food service in this “new” world.

Since Taco Libre opened, you may have come across the couple at their spot in Koloa, at Hanapepe’s Art Walk on Friday nights, Lāwa‘i Beach Resort on Mondays, and First Saturday in Old Kapa‘a Town. They are currently serving in the Kōloa location from 10 a.m.-3 p.m, Sunday-Wednesday. Though they said they can’t wait to get back to events, they have been growing their customer base every week and having fun experimenting with specials over the last months.

Taco Libre’s owners, Christian Martinez and Aaleiyah Chinen, serve a menu that brings a mix of Mexican recipes and local Hawaiian foods.

Oh, how I have missed Mexican food! I would never dishonor it by attempting it at home. There’s not a chance I will be fire roasting chiles, or taking the care and nursing attention to prepare a chile relleno. Nor do I have the apparatus for a proper al pastor to make the crispy/tender slow heated pork or beef. COVID-19 has given me a renewed appreciation for good food. Taco Libre has a small but full menu that features tacos and burritos — what I call hand food that you can eat easily on the go — and also a collection of Mexican favorites like the chile relleno and chilaquiles.

Christian’s parents are immigrants to Chicago from Mexico; his father is from Durango and his mother from Monterey. Aaleiyah is born and raised on Kaua‘i. The couple continue to get tips from Christian’s mom and grandmother for good food. Their menu is inspired with help from Christian’s family recipes and a merger with Aaleiyah’s experience on island. Over her mask, Aaleiyah’s eyes lit up when she talked at length about her love for playing with flavors and creating new things. While whole-heartedly sticking to family traditions, she’s not shy about blending those with island favorites. Case in point: the Mexi-Moco, the logical marriage of Mexican flavors with Kauai’s favorite breakfast. And how cute is this: they pointed to the heating element for the al pastor setup which is ceramic tile radiating heat (traditional) complimented with lava rocks and said, “it’s like us”.

COVID-19 has given us all a chance to reevaluate and dream big. Some of Taco Libre’s goals for the coming opening months are to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner; for their menu to deliver as close to 100 percent local as possible; to go back to events and help to bring community together; to continue to advocate for eco-friendly habits and consumption; and to play with the menu more and more to fuse Mexican and Kaua‘i cultures through food.

Find Taco Libre on social media @tacolibrefoodtruck, call them at 855-5583 or email

  • Anni Caporuscio is a food, coffee and book lover. She can be found walking her dog Wilson at the Kapa‘a Bike Path, or crushing enemies at the Kapa‘a Hockey Rink during roller derby season.

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