A proud holder of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” award and now the owner of 11 restaurants in Philadelphia, Iron Chef Jose Garces’s culinary artistry is typically reserved for higher-end dining experiences.
With the March 16 opening of Buena Onda, a casual and modestly priced eatery specializing in fish tacos, Garces and members of the Garces Group hope to establish a laid-back dining approach different from their other food endeavors. Buena Onda literally translates to “good vibes.” Its menu and interior design are inspired by the relaxed culture of the Baja Mexican peninsula. The new restaurant is located at 1901 Callowhill St.
Danielle DeFalco, the regional operations manager of the Garces Group and a manager at Buena Onda, said the importance of food stretches beyond an appealing taste and a full belly.
“Food evokes something, it’s a love for Garces Group individuals in general,” DeFalco said. “For me, personally, it’s really nice to help create memories for other people through food and beverage.”
Buena Onda’s menu boasts an array of traditional Mexican foods like quesadillas and house-recipe guacamole. The restaurant’s specialty fish tacos are all made with sustainably sourced fish located via Seafoodwatch.org.
Additionally, patrons can expect Buena Onda to carry Yards Brewing Company’s K38 Pale Ale, a brew named after a famous Mexican surf break crafted exclusively for Buena Onda. Free samples of the beer are available on tap while customers wait in line.
Joshua Magner, a three-year member of Garces group and employee of Buena Onda, said the Fairmount neighborhood has been heavily supportive of the eatery.
“Customers have been thrilled with the idea,” Magner said. “Everybody seems to think that there’s tons of good restaurants around the area, but nothing of this sort. It’s nice to see a lot of positive feedback from the community.”
To give back to the neighborhood that has allowed Buena Onda to flourish, 50 cents of every guacamole order or water bottle sold is donated to the Garces Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps Philadelphia’s immigrants gain access to medical, educational and nutritional services.
Buena Onda is also adopting an eco-friendly attitude by using only recyclable or compostable dining materials.
The restaurant’s interior, courtesy of CORE, a design firm in Washington, D.C., adds to the space’s light and sunny mood. The light green and blue walls that encase the space are complemented by scattered woven baskets to create an atmosphere similar to a beach food-shack.
Speaking on behalf of Garces, representatives of the Garces Group said they hope to sustain Buena’s distinct dining experience for the foreseeable future.
“As we endeavor to do on each of our concepts, we hope to execute the best possible version of what we set out to do,” the group said in an email. “… So it’s important that people take this for what it is. We hope to send good vibes to Philly all year long.”
A man true to his craft, Garces himself is known to frequently drop by Buena to keep a familial environment within the staff.
Eamon Dreisbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.