FRESH FUSIONWasabi Juan's brings its sushi burrito to Hoover.
By Lauren Dowdle
Photos by Dawn Harrison
Some pairs just seem to go together. Peanut butter and jelly, football and a hot dog, fall and pumpkin-spiced anything. But what about a Mexican-sushi mashup? Wasabi Juan’s has proven those two things are the perfect match at its Avondale location, and now they’ve brought their unique dishes to Hoover.
How the restaurant got its start is just as special as its menu, says Jessica Hardisson, Wasabi Juan’s kitchen manager and daughter of owners Luis and Barby Toro.
She says getting into the restaurant business was “100 percent God’s blessing,” considering they had no past experience before opening Wasabi Juan’s. “My family use to have an automotive locksmith franchise. When that part of our life was closed, God just gave us this new adventure, and we decided to run with it.”
The story behind how they came to serve a variety of sushi burritos and tacos starts with her father, who loves sushi. “It is his favorite food,” Hardisson says of her father. “He could eat it every day.”
While he loved the taste of sushi, actually eating the dish with chopsticks wasn’t really his thing — and he felt eating them with a fork looked silly, Hardisson adds. “He always picked it up with his fingers, but he didn’t like that they would get full of soy sauce,” she explains. “So, he needed an easier way to eat sushi. Sushi burritos is that: an easier way to eat sushi.”
They ran with this idea, opening Wasabi Juan’s in Avondale. The restaurant used sushi ingredients rolled up as burritos — using soy wraps and nori — and also as tacos. Continue the food fusion theme, they also have frushi desserts, edamame, kimchi and other tasty dishes.
“The best way to describe the sushi burritos is they are sushi rolls that are burrito sized,” she says. “So, they are big sushi rolls and are served with chips and our homemade salsa. We also offer Mexican Cokes, which are made with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup.”
Wasabi Juan’s popularity and customer base has continued to grow, so now seemed like the right time to think about expanding, which led them to Hoover.
The family opened their Hoover location May 10 in the River Oaks Village shopping center on Lorna Road. Hardisson says Hoover was an attractive spot to open their second location because it has a lot of activity and is a great area.
“You have the mall and so many great restaurants and places to shop,” she says. “We felt like Hoover is a place that people go and hang out, and we like that atmosphere.”
And so far, so good. They have received a warm welcome from the community, Hardisson says. “We enjoy getting new customers every day,” she says. “We also love that our regular customers from Avondale have followed us to Hoover. It feels like one big family.”
They offer the same menu items at the Hoover location as they do their original spot, but there are a few different specials available in Hoover. Their menu includes everything from snacks like cucumber salad to nachos and burritos.
Wasabi Juan’s has raw and cooked dishes, and their most popular raw burrito is their L.H.M. (Lord Have Mercy) roll. It includes spicy tuna, shrimp, cream cheese, spicy mayo, unagi sauce and avocados. For their cooked rolls, it’s the Toro, which has steak, shrimp, cream cheese, avocado and unagi sauce.
Overall, their most popular dish is their 4:20 Nachos, which is named for the Bible verse, Romans 4:20. That starter comes with Doritos, spicy tuna, avocado, unagi sauce and spicy mayo. “It sounds so strange but works so well together,” Hardisson says.
There’s really something for every taste at Wasabi Juan’s, and those popular dishes are a good place to start. “I always recommend getting one of those three — if not all — for your first time,” she says.
Beyond its must-try dishes, Wasabi Juan’s offers a unique dining experience with a homey atmosphere, Hardisson says. The family strives to put their customers first to ensure the food isn’t the only thing that keeps them coming back time and time again.
“We don’t have any restaurant experience, but we do go out and eat a lot. So, one thing we know is how we like to be treated,” she says. “We want everyone that comes through our doors to feel welcomed. We feel like our customer service comes first, and the food is a bonus.”
For those a little unsure of trying sushi or raw dishes, there are plenty of cooked menu items they can try.
“It’s also a good introduction to sushi because we offer a lot of cooked things like steak and chicken,” she says. “We made sushi fun and easy and took away the ‘fancy’ aspect of it.”
Now with the two locations, Wasabi Juan’s isn’t finished growing yet — at least that’s the plan. They hope to open more locations in the future, Hardisson says.
Wasabi Juan’s is located at 3732 Lorna Road in Hoover. For more information, visit Wasabijuan.com.