Saturday, April 6, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Paul Kraft fell in love with Wahoo’s Fish Taco 11 years ago in Costa Mesa, Calif.
In one day, he became obsessed with the Southern California-based chain restaurant’s fresh, healthy variety of food: the fish tacos, the chicken soup, its breakfast menu, all of it. He ate there multiple times a day. Whenever he left on a business trip, he craved it.
He also was a businessman who owned restaurants across the country. Last year, he decided to combine his love with his work. He obtained franchise rights from the chain and brought Wahoo’s Fish Taco to Las Vegas.
Now he’s ready to open a third and a fourth restaurant, both in Henderson, on May 3 and in September.
“It’s a real labor of love,” Kraft said. “It’s something that is high-risk only because of the economy and how the Las Vegas Valley was shook. Still, we’re in a position where (Las Vegas) is getting ready to recover. We felt it was a good time to bring something with the (affordable) price point we have that is fresh and healthy.”
The third Wahoo’s Fish Taco in the valley will be on Horizon Ridge Parkway near Horizon Drive. Kraft plans to host a grand-opening celebration, complete with an all-day happy hour, free food samples, prize giveaways and a charity event for a couple of local high schools.
Despite the valley’s oversaturation of taco and burrito restaurants such as Chipotle, Rubio's, Café Rio and others, Wahoo's Fish Taco co-founder Wing Lam said the uniqueness of Wahoo’s makes it popular enough to warrant an expansion. He said the restaurants’ extreme-sport memorabilia and laid-back surfer vibe makes customers feel like they're in Southern California rather than a restaurant.
Kraft added that every dish and sauce, from the Outer Reef Burrito to the Ahi Salsa, is made from scratch, offering a cheap and healthy option customers can’t get elsewhere.
“We afford that half-hour, hour, or for however long you're there to bring you back to the Southern California culture," Lam said.
Kraft said there was a demand for expansion. Kraft estimates his two restaurants average 300 to 1,000 customers a day, with many of them from Henderson asking when Wahoo’s would expand to an area close to them.
He decided to expand only after he felt his two locations in Summerlin and on Sunset Road “earned the right.” To him, that meant they had to master the chain’s breezy, Southern California vibe, offer fresh food and stay clean.
Kraft said the two new restaurants would bring 85 additional jobs to the Las Vegas Valley to go with the 77 jobs he brought by bringing the franchise to Las Vegas last year.
He said the new Horizon Ridge Parkway location would maintain the same qualities and characteristics of the restaurant’s other locations, but it also will offer a unique view of downtown Las Vegas from the patio.
Eventually, Kraft hopes to open locations near UNLV and the Strip. Until then, however, he plans to share the food he’s been passionate about for more than a decade with others.
The second Henderson Wahoo’s is planned for 725 S. Green Valley Parkway.