A fast-casual taqueria is joining the Clearwater food scene, with the promise of staying true to tradition. Wakamolé Truly Mexican — whose name is, of course, a play on the word guacamole (and maybe even the game whack-a-mole) — will launch in spring 2018 at 435 S. Myrtle Ave.
Founder David Rosales is behind the new Wakamolé. A Mexico native, Rosales moved to Clearwater years ago to find an abundance of Mexican eateries, but none that he really enjoyed.
"Most of the restaurants, their target market is just the Hispanic community," Rosales said. "Me, being a little more international, I didn't feel welcome when I went into those restaurants. The way that I saw it was, if I don’t feel welcome being Hispanic, I can only imagine how Americans feel. I wanted to come up with a concept that offers the quality of truly Mexican food, but in an Americanized setting."
There are months to go before Wakamolé debuts, but the restaurant has been showcasing its recipes during local markets and events. As a vendor at the Tampa Indie Flea, St. Pete Indie Market and 16th Annual Safety Harbor Wine Festival (which took place Nov. 4), Rosales and his team have been able to test out their tacos with future customers.
"It's been really positive. I've heard a lot of people say these are the best tacos they've had in Tampa. People who've lived in southern California, like San Diego, have told us these tacos taste just like they do there," according to Rosales.
Part of a three-store plaza, the restaurant's 1,000-square-foot space sits between a new Subway and Domino's Pizza. This modern and simple taqueria plans to feature a variety of proteins — shredded chicken, chorizo and thinly sliced steak among them — to fill a diner's choice of tacos, plus bowls and tostadas. Customers will see their orders prepared every step of the way, similar to the assembly-line style of Chipotle Mexican Grill and other fast-casual joints.
In addition to a customizable menu, Rosales says he's most excited to offer the classic dish that is tacos al pastor.
"We're actually gonna have it the way it's cooked in Mexico on a vertical broiler. In all the restaurants I've [visited] here, they do it, but they do it on the grill. They marinate the meat, and then just throw it on the grill," Rosales said.
The vertical broiler will ensure diners are digging into ultra-thin, tender pieces of meat, creating an authentic experience.
On the beverage side, aguas frescas — a traditional booze-free drink that consists of a mix of fruits, flowers and seeds blended with sugar and water — are in store. The lineup includes Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea) and horchata, to name a couple.
Additional highlights: Taco Tuesdays and a special brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays, featuring popular plates like chilaquiles — fried tortilla chips simmered in a sauce with sour cream, queso fresco and avocado.
Taco lovers who can't wait till next year should stop by the Wakamolé market booth around town for a taste of what's to come. After its doors open to the public, the taqueria expects to operate 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
"I want to bring fast, fresh and truly Mexican flavors to the Clearwater area," said Rosales. "I want people to know they can find good food that is gonna be served quick and something that will be made on a daily basis."