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Buena Onda: Garces goes to Baja with tacos and free beer

The taqueria on Callowhill Street near Logan Square features made-to-order tortillas, margaritas, and a little somethin'-somethin' for those waiting for their food.

Jose Garces' bread and butter, as it were, has long been the taco.

The Iron Chef pretty much built the two Distrito restaurants around it, and drew lines for it at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City with the casual Distrito Cantina. Then the Revel went bust - also shutting out the Garces Group's Amada and Village Whiskey in the process.

Garces had the talent but not the outlet.

Monday, March 16 will mark the opening of Buena Onda, the Garces Group's interpretation of a Baja beach shack. So it's a Pacific beach and not an Atlantic one.

Buena Onda (1901 Callowhill St., 215-302-3530) is midblock in line of stores on the ground floor of the Granary building on the 1900 block of Callowhill Street, also the home of Pizzeria Vetri, Le Pain Quotidien, and Gyu-Kaku. It's behind the Free Library.

Much of the staff from Atlantic City - led by taco master Aedo Rufino and guided by Gregg Ciprioni - is in the kitchen, turning out $3.50 fish or shrimp tacos (battered and fried or glazed in tequila lime), $3 meat/pork/chicken tacos, quesadillas, and nachos. Menu is here. There's also a kids' menu.

Three important pieces of information:

  1. The corn and flour tortillas are made to order - a-maize-ing for a shop that is expected to do a brisk business.

  2. If you're 21 and over, you get treated at the host stand to a 3-ounce pour of K38, a pale ale made for Buena Onda by Yards Brewing.

  3. "Buena Onda" is idiom for "good vibe"; the back of staff T-shirts proclaim "tranquilo" ("calm")

Decor is light and airy, with birdcage-style light fixtures, concrete floors, booths and counter seating. Baja rock plays - e.g. it's like the playlist from WMGK sung in Spanish. You order at the register, sit with a table number, and await staff bearing food.

Bar is limited to classic and frozen margaritas ($7 to $9), beers (the K38 and Yards Brawler, $4.50), four canned beers ($4.50), a red wine, and a white wine. "Dessert" is paletas (fruit popsicles).

Fifty cents from every guacamole and bottled-water purchase will go to the Garces Foundation.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.