CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER GELORMINE

The book club that I belong to here on Okinawa has been meeting for longer than I’ve been on-island, but when the founder and organizer PCS’d I took over.  At first I made few changes; we continued to have our members take turns choosing the books we read each month but rather than always meeting at my house we moved the location between our homes for each discussion.  And then one of us had a great idea – when discussing Honeymoon in Tehran we should try out the Persian Restaurant down near Araha Beach to get us in the spirit.  So we geared up for some authentic food, toting our books with us… only to discover that the restaurant wasn’t open that night.  (It’s okay, we headed a block down the street to Genki Izakaya instead.  We didn’t go home hungry.)

We loved the concept of having an actual excuse to hire babysitters and go out to eat with friends so much, we thought we’d give it a go again in February.  This month’s reading selection was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and though we would have loved to travel up past Nago to the British Wine and Tea Shop, it’s a bit too far to travel on a Tuesday night.  So we settled on a cuisine from the same general region of the world: Patty Macs Irish Pub right outside Kadena Gate 2.  Again, we made plans to meet with our books and our appetites… and wouldn’t you know?  Although that pub is generally open on Tuesday nights it was closed on this particular one.

So we stood in front of the locked bar, stomachs rumbling and growing thirstier by the minute.  We looked left and right, and then one of us said, “Well, my kids and I like Charlie’s Tacos right over there.  Wanna try that?”  And we did.

Charlie's Tacos-4

I wasn’t expecting much.  They’re tacos, after all.  So when my “Ladies’ Set” showed up with a mildly spiced chicken taco in a homemade, freshly fried taco shell with tomatoes and shredded lettuce piled on top, along with beef taco rice, french fries, a drink and even a tiny scoop of ice cream, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Charlie's Tacos-2

My friends mostly stuck to versions of this set, though we were given the option of beef, chicken or tuna tacos with mild or spicy seasonings, all meats which were well-received.  For 850 yen (mine was 900 yen with a slightly larger soft drink) this seemed like a great deal, especially since I walked away full.

Two of my friends opted for the three taco set, which in combination with a drink cost 780 yen, and had one of each type.  Other options on the menu were enchiladas, chili, soup, pasta, hamburgers and hotdogs, and steak sandwiches, in sets or a la carte.  And – much to the happy surprise of my friends – there’s a small beer menu as well, offering Orion and Corona among others.

Charlie's Tacos-3

It might not have been fish and chips or traditional minced meat shepherd’s pie like we were expecting, but it was a delightful surprise to find a restaurant that I can bring not only my husband, but also my kids, to again sometime… probably soon.  I’ve been told that Charlie’s can get busy at lunchtime, but on a Tuesday night at 7pm we mostly had the place to ourselves.  It seemed kid-friendly, but I didn’t notice any high chairs (though that may have been because – for once – I didn’t actually need to grab one!).


Charlie’s Tacos

Operating Times:
Open from 10am to 9pm, Friday through Wednesday.  Closed Thursdays.

Charlie’s Tacos accepts Yen and Dollars, No credit cards

Address: 沖縄県沖縄市中央4丁目11−5

GPS Coordinates: 26.3401648, 127.7993253

Directions:
Coming out Kadena Gate 2, drive straight through to the Koza Music City intersection (four corners) at 330.  Take a left onto 330 and travel for five blocks to Park Avenue (BC Street).  Take a left onto this street and travel almost all the way to the end, with a 100 Yen Plaza in front of you.  Charlie’s Tacos will be on your right on the last block.

Parking isn’t abundant here, so if you’re traveling with a group, carpooling would be a great idea.  It’s within walking distance of the USO, and I’m sure there are side streets that will take you here faster than the driving directions.  Maybe one of our readers can help with those?

Update: They also have a location on Kokusai Street in Naha.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Myself and 2 others started the taco eating contest and set up the poster board, then one of our Spec 4’s was the first on the board. I can’t remember how many he ate, but it was like 18 in the 15mins allotted. A marine came in a few months later and bumped him off. Charlie used to deliver fresh lunch tacos to us at the Camp Kue Hospital if we gave him a big enough order and advance time. A lot of good memories from Charlie’s and Okinawa. Great people.

  2. Went to Charlie’s in the ’70s back when it was located on BC street. The GIs thought it was the best kept secret! Every inch of the wall was covered in pics, mostly GIs in Vietnam. Fantastic tacos and great prices!

  3. I absolutely love Charlie’s! This was an accidental find for my husband and I while we were out on our weekend adventures. We’re from Las Vegas and know some pretty awesome Mexican restaurants but Charlie’s has an Asian twist to their tacos that makes it one of my top three places. It has become a routine: If we’re going to Gate 2 for some bar hopping we stop by Charlie’s Tacos to fill our tummies.

  4. We ate there once, and I didn’t think it was that good either. If you want amazing tacos, trying King Tacos.

  5. If you look up Charlie’s tacos on japanese search website, it has 16 reviews with 5/5 stars. We went there on a weekend and every table was full. There were japanese tourists taking pictures of themselves in front of this “iconic” place. For us, the food was . . . okay. Recommend to try once, that’s about it

  6. Went here today and have to say I was disappointed. It was not very flavorful for the money we spent. The taco rice seems to have some kind of sauce in between the rice and the meat layer. It was too sweet, adding the wrong flavor. The shells seem to have been cooked at a low temp, leaving them fairly greasy. Considering what a pain it is to park (we parked at the 100 Yen Plaza building and paid Y100) I don’t see us going back.

  7. I was in Okinawa 1967 and 1968 and ate at Charlies. Came back in 1973 to 1975 with the family and again 1976 to 1980 as Provost Marshal on Okinawa. I remember when Charlie used a different type of meat in his tacos. Got closed down for a while. When he reopened the previous meat was better than the ground beef they made him use. Charlies gave my family and me many fine memories and many fine meals. I’m writing a book SHORT RATIONS FOR MARINES, Charlies is in it.

    Ralph

    • Anyone that has been to Okinawa can relate to Charlies Taco’s. I was there from 76-81 and figure that we had a few posters on the wall. Miss it a lot. Had many good times there.

      • 3 tours at Kadena (76-78, 84-90, and 92-97). My first tour Charlie’s was at their old Kadena Gate 2 street location before moving to BC St. Remember grabbing about a dozen tacos and heading to watch Kadena HS play football against Kubasaki HS on Friday nights.

  8. FYI…there is also a Charlie’s Tacos on Kokusai Street! That’s where I discovered the island’s best tacos!!! I don’t know exactly how to tell you how to get there but I do remember that it is on the south side of the street on the second floor of one of those Okinawan souvenir shops…you know the ones with all the Okinawan salt cookies for sale…and stuffed animal goyas and pineapples. That’s the best I can do. Keep an eye out for the sign!

  9. We are also ones who remember it from “back in the day”, Late 70’s, so had to make a stop last week on my visit to grandbabies! I would like to add that the tuna tacos were so good, I begged for a 2nd visit!

  10. Randy- Yes, your dorm was torn down about a decade ago. They were condemned. My husband had some friends who lived there, and then they were moved to the new dorms.

  11. Outstanding!! The place sure has changed since 1981. I’m glad to see it’s still operating. I wish I could come back for a visit but that is highly unlikely. I think my dorm was torn down too. I was across from the bowling alley and I can’t even find that on google earch. oh well. Long live 6990th wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  12. This was probably the first place my husband and I found when we got to island. My father-in-law and uncle loved in back in the 70s and insisted we try it. I think their taco rice is probably the best on island when you combine it with their salsa!

  13. Hi Kim and Amy – thanks for your interest in the book club. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it, because unfortunately this particular one is unit-based, but we do have a great group on our sister site, Hai Society, that is always accepting new members: http://okinawahai.ning.com/group/thosewholovetoread

    I hope this post was helpful about Charlie’s Tacos, though. I took my hubby and kids back the next week and they all enjoyed it, too. My kids particularly liked the taco rice because it’s a little bit sweet. Oh, and I did see one high chair, but it didn’t have any restraints for little ones. I’d recommend bringing a booster seat from home to lock ’em in!

  14. Charlie’s is actually an Okinawan icon from “back in the day.” If you talk to someone who has lived here long ago, chances are, they’ll ask if Charlie’s is still there, or if you’ve eaten there. That’s why we set out to find it after we arrived here…and when “googling” Charlie’s Tacos…you can find some blogs and YouTube videos of people and their search to find it, too. Glad to see it featured here. I love historical landmarks!

    • “Back in the day”… loved that place… always went to Charlies before a night of pint lifting down BC street (circa 1977-1978)

      • I guess my back in the day wasn’t as far back as most, but in 84-86 Charlie’s was the place to go. There used to be a Wall Of Fame, that usually showed a bunch of jarheads, (marines) that ate 30 tacos in one sitting. Charlie was and still is an Icon to most

    • I loved Charlie’s we were going there in the late 70’s & 80’s! We would have taco eating contests with the J.P’s Marines it was awesome food and a really good time! Emmett

  15. sounds great! i love accidental finds! but what i’m more interested in, is your book club. where can i get more info? thanks!

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