Wahoo’s Fish Taco

article - Wahoo's Fish Taco

Wahoo’s Fish Taco is a U.S.-based restaurant chain that offers Mexican food mixed with Brazilian and Asian flavors.[1] Categorized as a “fast casual restaurant“,[2] the quality and preparation time of its food is between that of a fast-food restaurant and a more formal restaurant. Wahoo’s provides many vegetarian and some vegan options, such as tofu, banzai veggies and brown rice, and also provides a kids’ meal menu.[3] They serve Wahoo fish in their tacos, as well as Mahi-mahi.[4][5]

Wahoo’s Fish Taco
Type Private
Industry Restaurants
Founded Costa Mesa, California (1988; 33 years ago (1988))
Founder Eduardo Lee, Mingo Lee and Wing Lam
Headquarters 1185 Warner Avenue,

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Website wahoos.com

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Wahoo’s Fish Taco sign in Orange, California

Wahoo’s was founded in Costa Mesa, California, in 1988 by ChineseBrazilian brothers Eduardo “Ed” Lee, Renato “Mingo” Lee and Wing Lam, who mixed traditional Chinese and Brazilian flavors with dishes they encountered while traveling in Mexico.[6][7] Their parents had fled to Brazil in the 1950s following the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, and settled in São Paulo, opening a Chinese restaurant; their five sons were all born in Brazil.[8][9] Their father, Cheong Lee,[10] and the eldest brother came to the United States in 1964, and the rest of the family arrived in 1975, opening the Shanghai Pine Gardens restaurant on Balboa Island.[8][10] Based on their experience working long hours at Shanghai Pine Gardens, the parents insisted that their five children should study medicine, law, or engineering; the eldest brother went to law school, the second brother studied medicine, and the third brother (Wing Lam) attended San Diego State University, initially studying engineering, but switching to finance after being placed on academic probation.[11]

The first Wahoo’s Fish Taco restaurant, located at 1862 Placentia Avenue in Costa Mesa,[12] opened in November 1989, serving Baja California-style fish tacos.[10] The three brothers (youngest of the five sons) were the main restaurant employees. Wing Lam recounted in 2011 that “back in the day, I took your order, ran to the kitchen, made it and delivered it to your table.”[13] The three brothers remain involved in daily operations, with Wing Lam staffing the chain’s California-based food truck.[13] The first restaurant was funded in part with US$30,000 the brothers received from their parents after selling Shanghai Pine Gardens.[1]

Steve Karfaridis, the first manager of Wahoo’s second location, in Laguna Beach, is now a partner in the business.[11] The corporate headquarters are in Santa Ana, California.[14] The three brothers are still involved with the company, with Wing Lam acting as the public face of the company, working in public relations and marketing.[15] Projected sales in 2004 were US$35,000,000 (equivalent to $47,960,000 in 2020).[1] By 2011, annual sales exceeded US$60,000,000 (equivalent to $69,030,000 in 2020).[13]

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