Saturday, May 23, 2015

Buena Onda Review

This is for a series of posts related to Iron Chef Jose Garces including:

In March, Iron Chef Jose Garces' much anticipated fish taco joint opened its doors. Buena Onda serves up more than that, with its cool "tranquilo" atmosphere and servers. Heck, the name itself means "good vibes."

Buena Onda Tacos

Buena Onda's located underneath the Granary Apartments, so I was invited to a soft opening and indulged in a few of their offerings. I've been back a few times since, so here's a look at a hodgepodge of pretty much their entire menu. 

Buena Onda Tacos - K38 Beer Sampler

Even two months out from their initial opening, the lines are fairly long. After 7PM, expect a decent wait of 10-15 minutes and be on the lookout if you'd like to dine in. Tip? Have a friend gank a table while you wait. Pro-Tip? Do indulge in the complimentary 3 oz. pours of K38, a pale ale made specifically for Buena Onda, courtesy of Yards Brewing. 

After ordering your meal, you'll receive a number indicating your order to the service staff. Wait and ye shall receive.

Yards Brewing Sampler
3 oz. pour of K38, pale ale
Buena Onda Tacos - K38 Beer

An American Pale Ale, this was light and refreshing. Cerveza with fish tacos? Who woulda thunk? Definitely a nice touch by offering free pours.

Baja Margarita [$9]

Buena Onda Tacos - Baja Margarita

The baja margarita is stocked with some fruit pieces and is thankfully not overtly saccharine. Makes you feel as though you're on the beach. 
Frozen Margarita [$8]
Buena Onda Tacos - Frozen Margarita

Slightly reminiscent of coconut rum, the smooth consistency of this icy concoction definitely hit the spot.

Buena Onda Tacos - Salsa

For your dining pleasure, Buena Onda has got Cholula hot sauce on offer, along with both a mild salsa verde and a chile de arbol salsa that has a nice heat that lingers on the finish. 

Guacamole [$7.50]
Cotija cheese 

Buena Onda Tacos - Guacamole

There are plenty of freshly fried tortilla chips with an order of guacamole. Topped with cotija, the consistency of this guac is smooth, with hints of citrus and cilantro. I was hoping for more guac, but $7.50 is a fairly decent price point for the abundance of chips.

Nachos [$9] + Pollo [$3] 
Black beans, queso mixto, chile de arbol 

Buena Onda Tacos - Chicken Nachos

On another occasion, we got their chicken nachos to go. Moist, well-seasoned chicken studded the nachos, which can be ordered mild or spicy. This was a small portion for $12, but had decent flavors, punctuated by black beans, melted queso, jalapenos, and roasted peppers.

Carne Quesadilla [$10]
Poblano rajas, Mexican wild rice, questo mixto, caramelized onions 

Buena Onda Tacos - Steak Quesadilla

The beef quesadilla is substantial. Housed within a crisp, almost buttery flour tortilla are tender pieces of beef, rich caramelized onions, plenty of cheese, and rice with some bite. This will easily fill you up.

Buena Onda Tacos - Tacos

But truly, you're here for the tacos right? As it should be, the fish tacos come with flour tortillas while the meat tacos are housed within a nicely texture corn tortilla. The tortillas are all made to order.

Jumbo Pacific Shrimp Taco [$3.50]
Tequila lime glazed, chipotle remoulade, avocado, red cabbage, jicama slaw, flour tortilla

Buena Onda Tacos - Shrimp Tacos

You can order your fish tacos tequila-lime glazed or battered up. The jumbo pacific shrimp were indeed huge and well-cooked. The smoky glaze wasn't overpowering and accentuated the sweetness of the snappy shrimp. Along with a ripe avocado wedge, the red cabbage and jicama slaw added some texture to each bite.

Atlantic Mahi Mahi Taco [$3.50]
Tequila lime glazed, chipotle remoulade, avocado, red cabbage, jicama slaw, flour tortilla

Buena Onda Tacos - Mahi Mahi Tacos

The mahi mahi tacos are your best bet - the clean flavors of the fish took on the tequila lime glaze nicely, with a smoky chipotle remoulade to round it all out.

Atlantic Mahi Mahi Taco [$3.50]
Batter-fried, chipotle remoulade, avocado, red cabbage, jicama slaw, flour tortilla

Buena Onda Tacos - Fried Mahi Mahi Tacos

The fish retains its moisture in the batter-fried version, which provides some crispy texture to complement the slaw.

Pollo Taco [$3]
Braised chicken, avocado, lettuce, Mexican crema, corn tortila

Buena Onda Tacos - Chicken Tacos

The chicken tacos were more flavorful than I thought they'd be thanks to the braise. Smoky, with an undertone of spice. The corn tortillas really held up to the weight of the chicken.

Carnitas Taco [$3]
Crispy braised pork, black beans, pineapple, jicama slaw, corn tortilla  

Buena Onda Tacos - Carnitas Tacos

The pork tacos were moist, with a mix of crispy and tender meat. Topped with black beans, sweet pineapple chunks, and that ubiquitous jicama slaw, this made for good eats.

Carne Taco [$3]
Chile braised beef, chile de arbol, queso fresco, cilantro, corn tortilla

Buena Onda Tacos - Carne Steak Tacos

My favorite of the three meat tacos was the carne. These ate like short ribs, with huge, tender chunks of braised beef shining through each bite. The salt of the queso, the smokiness of the chile, and the freshness of the cilantro really balanced out the heft of the meat.

As a whole, Buena Onda is on the slightly pricier end of the spectrum for a taco joint and I'm sure you'd find quality tacos in South Philly at a fraction of the price. While my mind wasn't exactly blown and fish tacos weren't redefined, I don't think that's the point. The tacos are well-executed and I'd highly recommend the Mahi Mahi and the carne tacos. Do sign up for the Rewards Program - 250 points nets you $25 to use and signing up alone gives you $10 for a future visit. 

FTC Disclaimer: Some of the dishes featured above were provided courtesy of Buena Onda during a soft opening. 

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