Food News

How La Onda Went from Summer Slump to Packed for Weeks

Watermelon and walu ceviche.
Watermelon and walu ceviche. Courtesy of La Onda
On Sept. 8 when Bon Appetit announced its top 50 new restaurants in the U.S., two North Texas restaurants were caught a bit off guard. The proprietors of El Rincon del Maiz in Garland told us that they thought a call from Bon Appetit beforehand requesting photos was a scam. They didn't realize they were on the list until a reporter at D Magazine called them for an interview. This is the good kind of "caught off guard."

La Onda in Fort Worth is a small restaurant run by a husband and wife team: Victor Villarreal is the chef and Misty manages the bar and front of the house. They and a small staff manage a 32-seat restaurant that serves an ever-rotating menu of fresh seafood and house-cured meats.

Misty said that prior to the Bon Appetit announcement, they'd been in a summer slump, perhaps due to the hot weather or inflation driving diners to eat at home more.
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La Onda is booked weeks out after landing on Bon Appetit's top 50 new restaurants list.
Courtesy of La Onda
"It's been a whirlwind," Misty says after finding out the morning of Sept. 8 about making the Bon Appetit list. "By that evening, we filled up reservations for the next two weeks. We went from decent to on fire in 48 hours."

As for supply keeping up with the increased demand, they say that's not a worry. They've always worked with an ever-changing menu based on what's been caught on boats, so adapting to change — in this case, a sudden increase in booked nights — has always been a part of their business.

When asked specifically how they get fresh fish in Fort Worth, Victor explained that he works with a company that has boats in Hawaii. He gets a call on Monday morning about what's been caught and places his order. That company outsources other products if needed. Then it's all shipped overnight and arrives in his kitchen the next day.

"It costs a little, but it's the same as, say, a fine-dining dinner at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek," which is one of the places he worked before opening his own restaurant.

Bon Appetit released its final 10 this week but neither North Texas spot made the final list. The pan-Caribbean restaurant Canje in Austin is the sole Lone Star State restaurant.

To make reservations at La Onda, call (817) 607-8605 or email [email protected]

La Onda, 2905 Race St.(Fort Worth) 4–9 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday; 4–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Closed Sunday and Monday.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.