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Foodie Fare

A Healthy Take on Tantalizing Tacos

Story By Christina O'Connor Photos By Leah Friel
May 13 - 19, 2012

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With three locations on Oahu — Ward, Kahala and a lunch wagon parked at Sandy Beach — Wahoo’s Fish Taco brings the flavors of California-style Mexican cuisine to the Islands. Plus, Wahoo’s utilizes fresh ingredients, offering a healthy take on its flavorful fusion food.

“We make all of our sauces, and we marinate all of our meats,” says Noel Pietsch Shaw, who co-owns the Oahu locations with her sister, Stephanie Gambetta. “It is really a pure, healthy product, and that’s kind of what our large following of regulars appreciates.”

Among Wahoo’s most popular items is Seven Layer Salad ($7.75), which includes brown rice, black or spicy Cajun white beans, cheese, guacamole, shredded lettuce and cabbage, salsa, and a choice among fish, chicken, tofu or pork (add $3) or steak or shrimp (add $5). It also is served with a roasted pepper cilantro sauce.

Another customer favorite is Wahoo Bowl ($10.75), which features flame-grilled fish, blackened or teriyaki. The bowls can be served with ahee rice or brown rice, and also include black beans or spicy Cajun white beans.

And if you’re coming to a place with the words “fish” and “taco” in the name, chances are you’re going to want to try the fish tacos. And when you do, you’re going to want more than one. You can get two flame-broiled or blackened Soft Tacos with fish for $7.30. The tacos are filled with cheese, lettuce or cabbage and salsa — all on top of a local corn tortilla.

“We make a huge effort to do local,” Pietsch Shaw says. “Our tortillas are local, our cabbage is local, our tomatoes are local, the green onions. So a large portion of what you get in a taco or a salad is actually from Hawaii … That is important to us — to make things as fresh as possible.”

Wahoo’s also is the perfect place to find some pau hana fun — especially during its crowd-pleasing Taco Tuesdays, which takes place weekly at the Kahala location, starting at 5:30 p.m. On Tuesdays, tacos are just $2, and Primo beer is $2. Live music, which features a rotating set of various bands, begins at 6:30.

The same deals also are available during Wahoo’s Wednesdays at Ward, while Wednesdays at the Kahala store are for Family Night. On Family Night, a child can eat for free per every adult meal purchase.

Please note that all of these deals are for dine-in customers only.

If you are stopping by the Kahala location for a drink after work, be sure to try this month’s drink special — Black Raspberry Paloma ($5), which is a layered cocktail with tequila, fresh lime juice, grapefruit juice, black raspberry liquor and soda water. Each month, Wahoo’s at Kahala (which has a full bar) mixes up a new $5 drink special.

For those who just can’t get enough of Wahoo’s, you can take it home with you. The restaurant offers party platters, a taco bar and even a full-service catering option. Catering starts for as little as $8 per person.

On the Side

For a restaurant chain that has more than 50 locations spread throughout several states across the country, Wahoo’s Fish Taco has modest beginnings.

It was created in Newport, Calif., by three brothers who had grown up helping out in their parents’ Chinese restaurants, first in Brazil and later in California. In their spare time, they often travelled to Mexico on surf trips. They were inspired by the type of cuisine they encountered on their trips — simple, light tacos made with fresh grilled fish. The brothers started up just one taco shop, and its popularity quickly spread throughout Southern California — and soon, throughout the country.

And although Wahoo’s is now a bona fide chain restaurant, it has still stayed true to its origins by utilizing fresh, healthy ingredients.

“That is originally what got my sister and me interested in bringing the restaurant to Hawaii,” says Noel Pietsch Shaw, who co-owns the island’s three Wahoo’s locations with her sister, Stephanie Gambetta.

The two were inspired to bring Wahoo’s tasty tacos to the Islands when they were living in Los Angeles.

“We got to know the company when we were living in L.A.,” says Pietsch Shaw, “and we thought it would be a good fit for Hawaii.”

They opened up Wahoo’s at Ward in 2006, and the Kahala location launched in 2010. In addition, there also is a lunch wagon based at Sandy Beach Park.

“I think there is a market for people with busy lifestyles — for families where both parents have careers — to get a quick product at a reasonable price that is healthy for you,” she says. “We really value what we put in our bodies, and we’d only want to be involved in a business that we can stand by completely. And Wahoo’s is definitely that.”

Wahoo’s Fish Taco

  • Where
    • Ward Gateway Center
    • 940 Auahi Street #140
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
    •  
    • Kahala Korner
    • 4614 Kilauea Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96821
  • Call
    • (808) 591-1646 (Ward)
    • (808) 732-9229 (Kahala)
  • Hours
    • Ward
    • Sunday – Thursday
    • 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Fridays and Saturdays
    • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    •  
    • Kahala
    • Monday – Thursday, Sundays
    • 11 a.m. – Midnight
    • Friday – Saturday
    • 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
  • Website
  • Notes
    • Free parking available.