Hallandale Beach's Wapo Taco will open its first outpost late on Friday, July 10 at 2526 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables. The 80-seat, 2,000-square-foot space will feature the same decor as the original, with a large tiled bar, pleasant modern seating, and a colorful, Tetris-like design on the walls.
Although Wapo Taco may resemble a chain restaurant found in Anytown, U.S.A., its flavors are that of a taqueria in Mexico City. Look beyond the gleaming dining space and you'll find some unexpected authentic touches. Pork and chicken al pastor slowly turn on a trompo, or spit. A woman makes corn tortillas by hand, while a man stokes coals for the grill. Wapo Taco might look like a modern, gleaming café, but its roots are steeped in traditions that go back a half-century.
Wapo Taco partner Francisco Musi explains that food is made using his family recipes that go back to El Farolito, which opened in Mexico City in 1962. "This goes back to my grandfather, my father, and my uncle. I originally wanted to go into finance, but making food is in my family." Ultimately, Musi decided he would be more fulfilled in the family business than at some bank.
Musi says he wanted to bring not only the food but also the feel of his family's Mexico City establishment to South Florida. The Hallandale Beach location opened in September 2014, and now Musi is ready to expand into Miami-Dade. "In my hometown, a taqueria is a place for all. Likewise, Wapo Taco is a place for diversity. Our inviting, relaxed environment, unique flavors, and affordable prices are meant for all to enjoy.
"We’re excited by the recent resurgence going on with the Coral Gables food scene and want to be a part of it. We chose the city for our second location for this reason, and because of the beauty and diversity that the Gables offers.”
In anticipation of the Gables location, Musi has reworked the restaurant's menu, which features classic dishes, tacos, and more than a few surprises. Cebollitas preparadas ($5.99) is a simple dish of grilled spring onions with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi seasoning, and salt. The spring onions have a subtle flavor and won't fill you up for the meal ahead.
The gringa ($10.99) features pork or chicken al pastor atop twin flour tortillas, topped with onions, cilantro, and pineapple. The meat is shaved to order from the chicken and pork spinning on twin spits behind the bar.
Three flautas (taquitos) ($7.99) are filled with chicken or cheese and topped with cojita cheese, Mexican sour cream, and shredded lettuce. The flautas are served with a side of house-made guacamole.
Carne asada tacos are served two to an order ($9.99). They're made with a generous portion of charcoal-grilled steak with roasted chilies, onions, avocado, and cilantro.
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Salsas and pickled onions are made in-house. Musi explains, "We make all the salsas and chips fresh daily. It can be costly, but for us, there's no other way to go."
If you want to get a taste of Wapo Taco's authentic Mexico City street food before it opens in Coral Gables, the Hallandale Beach location is just north of the Miami-Dade County line at 1955 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd. (across the street from Gulfstream Park). The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. Two-for-one happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.