It looks like Jimmy Hula’s is finally getting its act together. You may recall that when I visited the first Hula’s, in April of 2011, the fish taco and burger concept had just opened its first shack on Aloma Avenue in Winter Park. I don’t use the term shack derogatorily here -- the decor is a beach shack, a hangout for surfers furnished with found items, including large bench seats pulled from the back of old cars. The decor is actually appropriate and kind of fun.
The food and the service had issues, however.
I won’t go into all the specifics -- you can read the original review here -- but suffice to say that there was no apparent reason for making guests wait over a half an hour just to order the food. And that food, though tasty enough, was inadequately portioned for the price.
Now Jimmy Hula’s has opened a second location on University Boulevard, close to UCF, which seems a perfect location for this type of operation. I was a bit leery the first time I approached. In fact, when I saw the type of line that I experienced at the original location, I turned and left to dine elsewhere.
I returned another time and got there before the lunch surge. I was struck with the vigorous greeting I received not only from the young woman behind the counter, who seemed patiently anxious to take my order, but from several other staff members throughout the restaurant.
I ordered a fish taco, which the menu listed as only whitefish. (Oh, by the way, the menu are static here instead of television screens that were constantly changing as you were trying to read them at the original place.) Whitefish could be any of thousands of fish so I asked. It was swai (rhymes with why), a fish similar to basa with the same characteristics as catfish. Moderately flavored with a more delicate texture (mushy sends the wrong message). But there seemed to be more of the fish, as well as the other toppings -- shredded cabbage, cheese, chopped tomatoes and artistically drizzled sour cream. I enjoyed it.
I returned for another visit, this time to try the burger, and this time when the line was just out the front door. But unlike at the original, the line moved much faster. It took only 13 minutes to get to the counter to place my order. I probably would have gone faster if they had opened the second register earlier, rather than just before I placed my order.
I got the Kahuna Jr. combo, which featured a small burger (it was called Jr., so I wasn’t expecting a Whopper), with lettuce, tomato and cheese (extra). It also came with my choice of fries, either mojo or Cajun. Wouldn’t you think those would be defined on the menu? I wonder how many times the young women who take the orders have to explain them. Could shorten the wait, even with just one register open.
The burger was good, but we’re not talking a burger of the gourmet style. Just a nice, serviceable patty with good flavor.
The staff continued to be cheerful and helpful on the second visit, even with a full restaurant. They asked guests if everything was OK and offered to fetch refills of drinks or to get extra condiments. More than the food, I’m impressed with the improvement of the service.
Any startup takes a while to figure things out. Given the pedigree of the people behind Jimmy Hula’s and their experiences in food service, I would have thought it would have been better right at the start.
But either way, it’s good to see them making the changes for the better.
Jimmy Hula’s UCF is at 11556 University Blvd., Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to jimmyhulas.com (another improvement: it no longer plays loud music!). The phone number is 407-790-7838.