We tried a new restaurant today.Wahoo's Fish Taco, at 1722 South Congress in Austin. They have another location in Austin, plus they're in Hawaii, Colorado, and California, where they originated.
I've been in so many steak restaurants, and “dive bars” that have gone to such lengths to look down-at-the-heels, while also overcharging you for mediocre fare and lackluster service. Not here. Despite being a chain, it had a very local business vibe and appearance, without feeling contrived. The walls were covered with stickers from local businesses, mainly counter culture bicycling and skateboarding places. A portion of one wall was dedicated to displaying custom skateboards. Now, this isn't exactly my scene, but I've been in enough biker bars that had Motorcycle Club support decals, T shirts, and motorcycle parts hanging from the ceiling and on the walls to appreciate the similarity. They also had several TVs all hooked to the same DVD player showing us some pretty impressive bicycle stunt riding. The prices were a little higher than I'd normally expect for a taco place, but the location is a popular walking and shopping area, so these prices were probably the lowest for food in the neighborhood, not counting the food trailers.
There was air conditioning, but it didn't seem particularly efficient, although maybe it was just the Texas heat overpowering the a/c. We've experienced unusually brutal temperatures this summer, like most of the country, and it was well above 100 degrees outside. It was much cooler inside, but I did notice a thin film of perspiration on my skin. In retrospect, though, it wasn't entirely unpleasant. Probably about the same level of heat you'd experience on a nicer day if you ate outside at one of their picnic tables. So, I'm not going to put them down for that.
Another thing: the restrooms, at least the men's, were clean. Unfortunately, this isn't something you can take for granted, even in a restaurant. I've been told by people in the restaurant industry that the cleanliness of the restroom is proportionate to the cleanliness of the kitchen. Thumbs up for that, Wahoo's.
This is one of those places where you order and pay at a counter and they bring the food to your table. While looking at the menu board and waiting to order, I noticed they had a large and varied selection of bottled beer available, including the regular stuff, plus various bocks, IPAs, and even hard pear cider. I stuck with soda, though, not wanting to add alcohol to the dehydrating effects of the heat outside. For soda drinkers, it's one size cup fits all, and you fill (and refill) your own cup. They have Pepsi products, which works for me, because I really like Mountain Dew.
On to the important part: the food. They have a fairly simple menu; tacos, burritos, nachos – typical Mexican food. Of course, they feature fish in a lot of their dishes. I'm guessing that's a Cal-Mex thing. I've seen fish tacos around here, but they're not so common with Tex-Mex (which, by the way, is what God himself eats when he can get it). I got a plate that came with two tacos, choice of beans, and a choice of rice. I thought it was pretty cool that you get options on the rice and the beans. I went with black beans, since refried wasn't an option. I accompanied that with brown rice. My options on the tacos were fish, shrimp (additional cost), chicken, veggie or steak. I chose one fish and one steak. I went with the steak as a backup in case the fish taco wasn't so good. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
We had cheese nachos for an appetizer. Honestly, there's rarely much you can say about nachos, because melted cheese on tortilla chips is pretty hard to screw up. However, I mention the nachos in order to to tell you that their guacamole (which, along with sour cream, is included) is pretty great. Go get some, you won't regret it.
I'm not a big fan of cabbage. Actually, I've never liked it – cabbage is the reason I don't eat egg rolls. However, that's what they use instead of lettuce on their fish and shrimp tacos. You know what? It accentuated the fish pretty damn well. This was one of the best tacos I've had. On a tangent, I may have to give egg rolls another try. I even started wishing I hadn't chosen a “backup”. However, once I started in on the steak taco, I felt vindicated. When I saw that it was listed as “steak” on the menu, I thought “yeah, right”. I expected some dried up pieces of beef left over from making fajitas. Nope. It may have been flank steak (what fajitas are made from); I don't know. I do know that it was not at all dried up or chewy. It was actually quite good.
The beans were good, too. The flavor of black beans always throws me for a loop the first couple of bites, because I'm so used to getting refried pinto beans with Mexican food. These had good flavor, though. I'm not usually the biggest rice fan, but it helped that brown rice is an option. Brown rice has some flavor of its own, as opposed to white rice, which really needs seasoning to give it any taste.
The other half had taquitos, and the Boy Child, being a picky eater, simply had a kids' order of nachos. Wee Little Baby Girl had a bottle of formula. We all left satisfied.
So, if you find yourself in a location with a Wahoo's Fish Taco location, and you're wondering whether you should give it a try, I say stop wondering, and wander in. Try the fish taco, and if you don't like it, I'll refund the money you paid to read this review.