Chef Jose Garces expands Buena Onda taqueria

Baja-inspired concept opens in Philadelphia with attached marketplace

Chef Jose Garces this month has opened the second of three Buena Onda taquerias in the Philadelphia area, providing a fast-casual Baja-inspired menu and a grab-and-go marketplace to the center-city Rittenhouse area.

Garces, a James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef participant, plans to open a third Buena Onda in Radnor, a township west of Philadelphia, next month and to expand it further. The Rittenhouse location opened Friday next to Garces’ Village Whiskey, covering 1,700 square feet and seating 48 inside and out.

The latest location of Buena Onda, which translates from Spanish as “good vibes,” serves new dishes such as K-38 (named for a popular surfing mile marker) Burritos, Kale and Mushroom Burrito Bowls and Kale and Mushroom Tacos.

“I’ve always loved the ocean, the sea air, the beach lifestyle,” said Garces in a statement, “whether it was spending time on the Pacific coast of Ecuador or the Jersey shore.”

Garces said those elements come together in Buena Onda, which the chef said he intends to offer as a franchise concept with New Orleans, La.-based Ballard Brands through their joint IdEATion Hospitality partnership. Ballard Brands franchises PJ's Coffee and WOW American Eats.

Signature dishes include environmentally conscious seafood tacos, classic tacos, Buena bowls, nachos, guacamole, chips and salsa, rice and beans and churros. Customers can pair dishes with drinks that include margaritas (classic, Baja, frozen and seasonal), beer, wine, sangria and sodas.

Buena Onda Rittenhouse and Fairmount, first opened in 2015, are open for lunch, dinner and happy hour, with indoor and outdoor dining, take-out and delivery. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

When Garces launched Buena Onda, it was his 19th concept. It continues to sustainably source fish in partnership with Seafood Watch.

Buena Onda is also committed supporting the Garces Foundation, the non-profit the chef founded in 2012 to support Philadelphia’s immigrant community.

With the expansion of Buena Onda, Garces plans to refresh the original 1,850-sqaure-foot location. The planned Radnor location on the Main Line is expected in early to mid-September with 2,000 square feet that includes 46 seats inside and six seats outside.

For the interior design of the Rittenhouse location, Garces used Styer Associates, which is working on his other restaurant projects. The location incorporates design elements for functional storage and address off-premises sales.

New locations, which have no bar, feature alcoholic beverages in cans and bottles, including Buena Onda branded margaritas such flavors as classic, strawberry and prickly pear.

With the Rittenhouse opening, Buena Onda debuted a new marketplace section with grab-and-go items like freshly made salsa, salads and agua frescas with seasonal flavors, plus Garces Foundation merchandise, Garces and Buena Onda branded apparel and gifts, snacks and grocery items like Jarritos, Takis and Hi-Chews.

"Since the pandemic began, our team has worked hard at developing a local, regional and national expansion strategy in partnership with Ballard Brands," said Garces. 

"The current take-out culture mixed with the ongoing environment of working from home has made this the perfect time to expand and bring Buena Onda to neighborhoods and towns in the Philadelphia region and across America,” he said.

In addition to Buena Onda, Garces restaurants include Amada, Distrito, Garces Trading Co., Village Whiskey, Volvér and The Olde Bar. The group also operates Garces Events, a catering and event division.

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Informa.com

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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