La Onda Aims to Ride a Fresh Wave
Chef Victor Villarreal’s Newest Place Taps Into Enviable Fish Supply Network, Brings Drinks Power
Chef Victor Villarreal has a resume that includes training from Sembach culinary school in Sembach, Germany — and the added to experience he gained at some of the top fine dining restaurants in Dallas/Fort Worth. Those include Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Grace Restaurant and Clay Pigeon, to name a few.
He went solo for the first time last year, opening his Abe Froman’s gourmet pizza spot inside the Food Hall at Crockett Row.
“Now I know the ownership side of the equation,” Villarreal tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “You can be a good cook, but until you’re the owner you don’t see all that goes on to run a successful business.”
For Villarreal’s next trick, he and his wife Misty plan to open their first stand-alone restaurant ― La Onda ― “the wave.” They snagged a former Gypsy Scoops location at 2905 Race Street in June, and are busily remaking the Fort Worth spot to suit their theme, which will be Latin, Spanish and Mexican-style seafood and cocktails. (Read the full PaperCity story on Gypsy Scoops’ own transformation).
“With the rolling closures at present, we knew we had to wait to pull the trigger on opening,” Villarreal says. “We’re hoping that things will improve during the time it takes us to renovate the bungalow.”
The quaint space will get dressed up with coats of white and navy paint, with gold accents. It will have tons of plants and greenery, locally painted art and murals, as well as hand-made touches, such as an oyster chandelier, when complete.
For his fusion menu, Villarreal is working with suppliers in Alaska, Massachusetts and Seattle to get the freshest seafood daily. Expect the menu to shift seasonally and with the freshest catch.
“I really want to feature the best of the East Coast, West Coast and Alaska,” the chef says.
Villarreal plans to feature a raw bar, ceviches, three types of oysters, mussels and gulf shrimp, along with fresh, roasted whole or smoked fish. There will be an eclectic mix of octopus and conch, as well as caviars ranging from $35 to $120. Also expect spreads of pate and smoked fish on his hyper-seasonal menu.
“Preservation will also be a focus, with various smoked and cured fish dishes,” Villarreal says. “Not everybody wants to eat seafood all the time. I will always have other meat options as well as vegetarian dishes to please everyone at the table.”
As with Villarreal’s Abe Froman’s ― which was named for The Sausage King of Chicago in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the name La Onda has a movie tie in. It was the name of a prison gang in the movie Blood In Blood Out. It is also a reference to the 1960s artistic student movement ― “the wave” ― of the same name.
Villarreal’s wife, Misty, will lead the bar effort, which will focus on crafty cocktails speaking with a distinctly Latin, Spanish and Mexican accent. She ran the bar at HG Sply Co. in Fort Worth, prior to becoming general manager of the Crockett Row Food Hall, which is where the couple first met.
“I’m focusing on local ingredients and distilleries as much a possible (with the exception of tequila, mescal and pisco which are import only items),” Misty Villareal tells PaperCity Fort Worth. Local breweries will also be featured in house.
Her coconut and ginger margarita already won an award at Fort Worth’s El Fuerte Taco Fest in 2019. It will be a constant at La Onda.
“We’ll have a cantaloupe paloma, a couple of seasonal sangrias, and variations on the classic Pisco Sour, and I’ll infuse tequilas and mescals with Latin fruits and veggies as well,” she says. “We’re going to keep the charm of the space.
“The former ordering counter will become our bar, and we’ll have a lounge area as well as an alcove featuring live acoustic music.”
The century old bungalow is only 1300 square feet, so it will be an intimate dining space with room for about 60 people — inside and on its patios (at the dream target of 100 percent capacity).
The couple is hoping for a mid-October opening for La Onda.