Iron Chef Winner Jose Garces will bring his Philadelphia seafood shack to D.C. in a big way, starting with a newly announced Rockville outpost scheduled to open next year.

Translating to “good vibes” in Spanish, Buena Onda’s four casual locations throughout Philadelphia specialize in sustainably sourced seafood influenced by Mexico’s Baja California coast.

Buena Onda’s first foray outside the home plans to begin construction in early 2024 and open mid-year (12137 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland). Fish or Pacific shrimp tacos can be ordered fried or grilled, topped with lime tequila, served on a homemade flour tortilla with chipotle remoulade, avocado, red cabbage slaw, and scallions. The margarita ring features fruits like guava, mango, pineapple and strawberries, plus frozen options, sangria, Mexican beer and aguas fresca.

Chef José Garcés founded Buena Onda in 2015.

New Orleans-based Garces and Ballard Brands (PJ’s Coffee, WOW American Eats) announced plans in 2022 to take Buena Onda nationwide and just reached its first franchise licensing agreement. Operators Zong Chen and Alexis Chen will open five new Buena Ondas across the DMV and Northeast region as part of the deal, starting with a 2,000-square-foot Rockville space.

Other restaurants under the umbrella of local business partners include Takumi Sushi in Falls Church; Nan Xiang Express in Ellicott City, Maryland; and Top Pot & BBQ in College Park, with another on its way to Ballston Quarter. The partners also run Chinatown’s chic new food hall Luna Hall, which is home to Kung Fu Tea, TKK, Pollo Aria and District Dumpling. Look for more Luna Halls to unlock down the line, some of which will have a Buena Onda inside.

“Zhong and I are selective about food,” Alexis Chen says in a statement. “He’s a chef himself and loves food. I’ve eaten a lot throughout my time in consulting and have grown to love tacos after living 8 years in Southern California.

This casual taqueria serves chips, salsa and guac.

Buena Onda also fills tacos and burritos with chipotle-braised chicken, red pepper short rib, guajillo-glazed pork, tofu, or mushrooms and kale. Customers can choose from the same proteins to build a bowl on a bed of white rice, brown rice, or a lettuce mix, along with seasoned black beans, chipotle mayo, crema, queso fresco, carrot and cabbage slaw, and salsa.

Garces gave D.C. diners a temporary first taste of Buena Onda with a delivery-only branch in Arlington in 2021. His previous run in D.C. was with the steakhouse Rural Society, which closed in 2017.

The Ecuadorian-American chef won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic Region for his work at Amada in Philadelphia in 2008.

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