The lights were on but no one was home last night at the Wahoo's Fish Taco at 1521 Blake Street, the first Colorado location opened by the California-based chain. "After 18 plus years, Wahoo's on Blake Street will be serving its last guest on Saturday, October 26," reads a sign on the door that directs would-be customers to Wahoo's Uptown at 225 East 20th Avenue.
That's one of ten still-open Wahoo's locations along the Front Range. Wahoo's has more than sixty other locations scattered across California, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Hawaii and Colorado.
Wahoo's was started by three brothers -- Wing Lam, Ed Lee and Mingo Lee -- who grew up on San Paolo, Brazil, where their parents had a Chinese restaurant, In 1975, the family moved to Orange County, California, where the boys' father opened the Shanghai Pine Garden Chinese restaurant on Balboa Island. Apparently restaurants were in their blood, because in 1988 the brothers opened a fish taco joint in Costa Mesta. But they gave this spot a twist, tossing Brazilian and Asian-inspired items on the menu, and decorating their restaurant with donations from nearby surf companies. That international influence and surf-inspired decor carries over today in all the Wahoo's locations.
And what's going to happen to that prime LoDo location, on what could be Denver's most restaurant-heavy block? We've got an idea. The flagship location of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, a homegrown chain that got its start in Fort Collins in 1986, is right next door at 1525 Blake Street. Last year that Rio expanded in one direction, opening Black Crow, an "urban outdoor campground" with a big bar and tricked-out trailer serving food.
And the Rio has other tricks up its sleeve. It's rolling out a new, improved bar lineup (not to worry; the original margarita that accounts for 80 percent of the chain's alcohol sales will remain). And it's opened El Monte Grill & Lounge, a more upscale Mexican restaurant, at 1611 South College Avenue in Fort Collins, "conveniently located 2105 miles due North of Oaxaca, Mexico."
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A LoDo location 2048 miles due north of Oaxaca might be even more convenient....