In the interest of full disclosure - this review is quite a bit different than any other that we've done. For one thing, it covers two separate visits to the restaurant over the course of a week. Additionally, many of the dishes we sampled were hand-selected for us. Finally, this is our first review where we've been accompanied by a couple of local foodies; Nick Rama and Kerry Stessel. Here's how it went down:
We were invited by one of the owners to come in to Wahoo's Fish Taco and try a variety of dishes from the menu. He had no input into what we would order, however, he did ask that as Wahoo's is after all known for their fish tacos, we at least try some other dishes for the review.
This being our first visit, we arrived right at the beginning of lunch hour and we pleased to see a smattering of tables already occupied. The register was manned by the manager, Jordan, who was very helpful and informative in our selection process of what to have for lunch. His answers to our questions assisted us in quick decisions, our order was placed, and we were off to fill our drinking cups. Having skipped breakfast, we opted to start with a couple of appetizers – Baja Rolls ($4.79) and Maui Onion Rings ($3.50). We felt we were off to a good start, as the beer-battered onion rings were hot, fresh and quite tasty; the onions were crisp-firm, but not raw. Overall, pretty perfect onion rings. We were a little baffled as to what made them "Maui," however, other than the name. Unfortunately, we did not receive our Baja Rolls before our meals were served.
I ordered a Wahoo's Sandwich w/Fries ($7.25); the sandwich ordinarily includes your choice of protein (I went with grilled chicken) guacamole, salsa and cheese. I actually don't much care for guacamole, so I requested mine without. In retrospect, I'm afraid that may have been a mistake. What I learned was this: because I had my sandwich sans guacamole, the lightly seasoned chicken left the sandwich to be somewhat lackluster in flavor.
I ordered the #2 Combo ($6.50), which includes two tacos or enchiladas, or one of each, with sides of rice and beans. Based on Jordan's suggestion, I opted for a chicken enchilada with red sauce and a shrimp enchilada with green sauce. I also decided on brown rice and black beans. My plate arrived hot and fresh looking - very appealing. The chicken enchilada was slightly dry and rather mild in flavor while the shrimp enchilada had just enough spice to allow for a distinction between the sauces and the shrimp itself. The shrimps were of average size and the freshness factor was good for a restaurant not too distant from the gulf in which they are caught. The rice could have cooked a bit longer and the full flavor of the black beans didn't need any seasoning at all.
In the end, we really didn't have a meal that offered us much of a "wow" factor. When the owner followed up with us a few days later, we shared our experience with him. He expressed his concern that we had not really ordered any of Wahoo's "signature" dishes. As an owner, he of course has a vested interest in the diner's experiences being favorable, but he also let us know that he dines there quite a bit himself, and there are a host of other dishes available on their menu. He left it up to us; we could simply post a review based on our lunch experience, or if we would let him, he would offer us some suggestions as to what might better appeal to us on the menu. We decided one more go of it couldn't hurt - so we took him up on his suggestion.
And this is where Kerry and Nick come in.
We were back in Wahoo's Fish Taco for a second time in as many weeks, this time with a list of dishes to try. Now, before you cry bias, understand this: like many patrons before us and many more that will come after, we simply didn't try these dishes on our own the first time around because the menu is huge, so when you don't know, you go with dishes that sound "normal." And, to us anyway, dishes with names like "Kalua Pig Bowl" seemed a little more off the charts than say the "Chicken Enchilada" - am I right? So really, if you think about it, it's not entirely Wahoo's fault that we were less than adventurous in our original foray into the menu. We could have asked more questions. We should have asked more questions. Because the difference between the first lunch and the second was night and day:
Our scond meal began with Chips 'n Salsa ($1.49), along with a side of Queso ($1.59). The chips were crisp and fresh, the salsa had a unique, almost sweet taste to it, and the queso was dense and cheesy, not runny or dull in that 'canned cheese' manner so often found in Mexican or Tex-Mex establishments.
Nick wanted to sample the Baja Rolls, and we also had a Carne Asada Quesedilla ($6.95) with grilled mushrooms, sour cream and guacamole. All of us agreed the the beef in the quesedilla was tender and flavorful; pretty much exactly what one would expect carne asada to be. The Carne Asada at Wahoo's is worthy of any full service Tex-Mex restaurant in the area. Also before the entrees was a Wahoo's Salad topped with Balsamic Vinaigrette and served with some good sized grilled shrimp, seasoned well with some guacamole on the side ($8.99). The salad was fresh, the shrimp flavorful without any of that 'seafood smell'.
The entrees promptly arrived one after another, and all of them looked amazing. The one dish we'd all been questioning we decided to dive into first, the Kalua Pig Bowl with Mr. Lee's Sauce and Teriyaki ($7.99) We dove in, and once again, the meat was tender and flavorful; though we all agreed the teriyaki was slightly salty. The Mr. Lee's Sauce was interesting; slightly sweet, a little smoky. Not quite barbecue, but not teriyaki, either. It was unique, which is presumably what makes it Mr. Lee's Sauce, and not something any of us had ever heard of before.
Another one of the entrees was the Maui Bowl ($7.99), with white beans and white rice. The Maui Bowl was served with steak which had been marinated in the same sauce as the pork in the Kalua Pig Bowl. The marinade was good, but not as good as it had been on the pork. Once again the presentation was appealing, everything looking and tasting fresh.
The last of our entrees was the Outer Reef Burrito, stuffed with chicken, brown rice, white beans and served "wet," ($6.79) meaning it was covered in an enchilada-type sauce. You know how there are restaurants that serve burritos that claim to be "big as yo' face?" This one would qualify. You may not be able to tell from the image above, but basically you're looking at half of the burrito, with the other have resting atop it at an angle to give you a view inside. See how it covers the plate? Those are big plates, folks. The burrito received high marks across the board from all of us present. It and the Kalua Pig Bowl were the favorites, but then again, we all really liked everything. Here's some additional feedback from Nick and Kerry:
"I also sampled the Chicken Burrito, which had a nice mild green sauce with tender chunks of chicken, rice, beans and a mixture of veggies, and was topped with melted cheese. This burrito was insanely huge...easily split between two people. The Maui Steak bowl had chopped up pieces of marinated Teriyaki steak, served with seasoned white beans and seasoned white rice. Personally, I think the Teriyaki marinade worked better with the Kalua shredded pork. We also had a Steak Quesedilla, and while the steak was a little tough the cheese and sauce they put in was very good. Overall the value is great. For a place that is famous for their Tacos I believe the other dishes they have are much better."
"The food was terrific. We tried several dishes and with a few minor flaws. We had no complaints with freshness, flavor, presentation, prepared properly and value. Would I go back? Yes I would. As a small business owner myself and also working in retail management practically my whole life, service is a big issue with me. If they make a mistake or if something is not right, I'm not looking to be comped a meal for minor things, but at minimum, a sincere apology would be expected. The only negatives (which were minor to me) were these: I noticed a small hair on top of one of the dishes. I know, your thinking EWWW. OK. I get it. But the fact is that these things happen even with hats or hair nets - it happens. So you send it back or pick it out, your choice but either way when I told the manager he did not offer an apology or "Oops, sorry". That's all I wanted to hear, and that he would address the matter in the kitchen. That's it.
The other minor infraction was that the pork in the pork bowl was a little salty - and the manager admitted that it did taste a little saltier than normal. Honesty...I love it."
Like we said at the beginning; this review is very different than any we've done before. You may be asking - did we get special dishes, made just for the review? The answer is no; these are all dishes prepared in ways anyone can go in and order, right off the menu. Did we get special treatment? No again; the staff was not aware of who we were or why we were there until we ordered - so the freshness of the food and how it was prepared should be representative of your typical Wednesday (or any day) lunch service. All that being said, would we recommend Wahoo's Fish Taco? Yes, yes we would. The menu is far more diverse than the name implies, and if you're willing to take a few extra minutes to look it over, and ask some questions about what you're not sure of. We all think you'll be glad you did. After this second visit to Wahoo we will be back for a third. If you are concerned that the food at Wahoo's is similar to a place such as Taco Cabana, think again - Wahoo's is much better.
Wahoo's closed in 2013 and the space was re-opened as Central Taco in 2014.
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