Hanging Ten at Coconut's Fish Cafe, a Taco Joint Imported from Maui to Dallas

You'll know Coconut's Fish Cafe hails from Hawaii when the cashier greets you with an "aloha" as you walk through the door. There are no leis of jasmine blossoms, burning tiki torches or dancing hula girls with breasts concealed by coconut shells, but there is a warm aloha, semi-passionately offered to each guest as a pre-recorded ukulele softly thrums in the distance.

Coconut's Fish Cafe originated in Maui, with a second location in Arizona and now a third here in Texas. The surfboard tables have tail fins, and the trash cans -- where you pitch your empty plastic cups -- read mahalo. Kona beers flow from the taps and, to drive it all home, there's a vintage reel of long boarders carving up eight-footers playing on the flat screens.

Ignore the menu hanging above the register -- it's impossible to read without blowing out a C7. The font is too small. By the time you've gotten close enough to read it, you're directly under it. Grab a paper menu instead and your neck will thank you.

The menu is massive -- it includes a mix of appetizers like calamari and coconut shrimp, soups, sandwiches, grilled fish served over rice, fish and chips and a couple of pasta dishes. There's also a section on the menu for kids, who can feast on spaghetti, quesadillas, hot dogs and other simple dishes.

Coconut's hangs their straw hat on their fish tacos, though. They'll run you $11.49 and come heaped with a blend of grilled ono and mahi mahi, cabbage in a creamy dressing and diced mango for sweetness. There's some hot sauce lurking around and the double-stack tortillas boast a sheen of melted cheese. They're massive.

They're also the only tacos I've received with instructions. After the obligatory question, "Have you ever dined with us before?" I was brought two tacos on two separate plates and told to eat them with my hands. Normally I'd find that guidance as useful as instructions to eat soup with a spoon, but when I picked the taco up I understood why many customers would reach for a fork and knife. Cabbage, hunks of fish and mango dropped from the back and sides of my taco with every bite.

Mechanics aside, the flavors were fresh and balanced. The fish was moist and boasted a nice sear, and that hot sauce had a brightness that suggests it's freshly made. It's a solid taco, though they'll leave fans of Mexico City's double-stacked rounds scratching their heads.

Coconut's Fish Cafe, 5600 W Lovers Lane, (469) 729-9346, coconutsfishcafe.com

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