When dining critic Gretchen Kurz suggested a story about family-run restaurants in Orange County (Page 90), I was immediately hooked. Her institutional knowledge of local dining is phenomenal, so who better to trust with a story like this? We narrowed the field to focus on multigenerational ventures or places run by siblings. The brothers behind Wahoo’s Fish Taco seemed the perfect cover choice as their brand celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. But would they be too busy?
Clearly, I had no idea who we were dealing with. Not only were Wing Lam, Ed Lee, and Renato “Mingo” Lee wonderfully generous with their time, they are also fantastic storytellers and delightful people who clearly love what they do. There is so much to discuss when it comes to this family—the idea behind their fish tacos, how they persuaded youngest brother Mingo to delay law school to help the business grow (despite his car being packed and ready to go, Ed says), their parents’ restaurant in O.C., the many ways they give back with philanthropy and advice, and their passion for all aspects of the business. But it was their camaraderie and easygoing nature that impressed me most over a few hours with them. They shared anecdotes from an October visit to New York to cook dinner at the James Beard House, an honor reserved for those who pass seven levels of criteria. They knocked the socks off diners who paid $140 or more for a five-course meal—all menu items from Wahoo’s—with superior wine pairings, and they gave food, wine, and merchandise to everyone helping in the kitchen and provided many laughs.
A friend moved to Boston years ago, and his Laguna Beach-raised wife insists on a stop at Wahoo’s every time they come back. The food lures us, and the brothers are the epitome of everything we like to celebrate in Orange County.
My Favorite Things In This Issue
➜ Perfect Getaway
It’s reassuring to see Santa Barbara recovering from last winter’s fire with renovated hotels and great attractions.
➜ Food News
Be sure to try the prix fixe lunch option at Terrace by Mix Mix—it’s delicious and perfectly sized.
➜ My O.C.
I think a return to actual friendships over strictly online ones sounds pretty rewarding.
The Adopt A Family holiday program is a fantastic way to lift your spirits and help others this season.