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October 07, 2023

Chef Jose Garces' Buena Onda to open first franchise location in Maryland

The taqueria which is expected to open in 2024 will be operated by Zong and Alexis Chen

Food & Drink Restaurants
buena-onda-maryland092123.jpg Provided Image/DJ Torney

Chef Jose Garces' Baja-themed taqueria Buena Onda is expanding to Rockville, Maryland, with its first franchised restaurant. Zong Chen and Alexis Chen will operate the eatery, which will open in 2024.

Buena Onda, the Baja-themed taqueria owned and operated by Chef Jose Garces, is expanding to Maryland. 

The restaurateur, who opened his flagship location in Fairmount in 2015, announced his first franchised location in Rockville, Maryland, headed by business partners Zong Chen and Alexis Chen. 

"One of the best things about expanding to this region, especially coming from Philadelphia, is that the locations are close enough to our home base that we are able to keep a very close eye on quality during this expansion and quickly make the necessary tweaks to ensure that our high quality and dedication to authentic Buena Onda vibes stays true," Garces said in a press release. 

The move comes after Garces revealed plans to expand his eatery nationwide last year, as he expanded in the Greater Philadelphia area with the addition of a Radnor location, as well as outposts in the Comcast Center and inside the Wells Fargo Center. 

Garces' team worked with Ballard Brands and Ideation Hospitality for the expansion of Buena Onda in 2022 and 2023. It will now further expand with five additional locations operated by Zong and Alexis Chen. 

Zong and Alexis are both originally from Fujian and have known each other since they were 18 years old.

Zong, 34, has 15 years of restaurant experience, including working in his family-owned eatery as a kid. As a developer, he has helped open more than 15 restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York, including Tutti Frutti, Bonchon, Kung Fu Tea, TKK, and Nan Xiang Express.

"I come from a large family who has always been focused on food as a common vehicle bringing people together," Zong said. "My Father worked so hard, and I became determined to help implement methods to create more efficiencies and knew from that point my future would involve food business with best-in-class efficiencies and highest quality."

Alexis is also 34 years old and, similarly to Zong, grew up working in her family's restaurant. She has a corporate background that includes experience as a financial and information technology consultant at accounting firms.

"Our parents' restaurants relied heavily on skilled labor, and hiring and high food costs made their business unsustainable," Alexis said. "From that experience, we realized the need to work with best-in-class brands that have SOP and a reliable supply chain. It's an honor to work with Chef Garces and the entire team at Garces Brands and Ballard Brands. Everyone's an expert in what they do, and it has been a great learning experience for us both."

Construction on the restaurant, located at 12137 Rockville Pike, Suite 14 in Rockville, Maryland, is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2024, with an official opening slated for later in the year. 

The franchised location will keep Garces' menu options, which include tacos, buena bowls, and burritos, as well as margaritas, draft beers, and sangrias.