There’s a New Hombre in Town…
I have to say that Zia Taqueria has been perhaps my favorite Mexican restaurant in the Low Country. But knock me down and call me Shorty, there is a New Hombre in Town.
Taco Mamacita recently opened on “restaurant row”, aka Middle Street, on Sullivan’s Island. Although there are two Mamacita locations in Tennessee, this is the first location to come to the Low Country. The owners, College of Charleston grads, fell in love with the area and proudly brought their restaurant here. We welcome them with open arms and nacho chips!
We went to Taco Mamacita for lunch after a golf/museum outing with our favorite relatives who were visiting. I usually don’t have high expectations for a new restaurant that’s only been open a couple of weeks, let alone visiting at an off peak time, but I am happy to say it was simply, terrific.
We were met by a very friendly hostess who quickly sat us in an oversized and very comfortable booth. One of our crew had to take a conference call so we slowed down our lunch order and started with the Appetizer Sampler. Tortilla chips, guacamole, queso and red salsa quickly arrived on an oversized (think deep dish pizza), pan. This was awesome.
The bad part was that it was the kind of appetizer that you keep eating even though you know lunch in on the horizon. Is that really bad? Thankfully the conference call ended and we placed our lunch order.
I have to say that the staff is tremendous. Anyone that passed our table was either refilling our drinks or asking if we needed anything else. A quick 15 minutes after ordering our lunch arrived.
Three of the items arrived promptly and then there was the case of the missing Sloppy Nachos. Three servers stood by our table and deliberated where the Sloppy Nachos were. It appeared that they were served to the table next to us by mistake so our server quickly snatched them back. It was almost comical as we watched our servers hunt for the elusive Nachos.
The Sloppy Nachos were topped with spiced ground beef, jalapenos, Jack cheese, sour cream and tomatoes were more than enough for the table to share even though they were ordered as a lunch item.
The Shrimp Po’Boy BLT (there is a selection of 13 tacos to choose from), was delightful. Creole fried shrimp, spicy remoulade sauce, iceberg lettuce, pepperoncini peppers, crispy bacon, pico de gallo and jalapeno lime mayo topped a warm flour tortilla. We chose the Mexican Sweet corn as a side and this dish was a winner.
My husband ordered two tacos and was quick to devour both of them. The Caribbean Jerk taco had roasted Caribbean jerk chicken, cabbage, mango salsa, refried beans, jerk sauce and peach aioli. I was fortunate to have a bite, and it had a wonderful slow heat to it, and I had taco envy.
The Memphis taco was filled with slow braised pork, diced white onion, chopped dill pickle, jalapeno cole slaw, dry rib seasoning and BBQ sauce – a winner from start to finish.
I found it interesting to see how many unique ingredients go into each and every taco. At $3.99 for each taco (with a side) this is a good deal.
And then there was my lunch… I don’t know how I do it, but I always end up ordering the wrong thing. Let it be said that I did want to order the quesadilla, but thought I should order the Peruvian Chicken since it was a signature dish and was advertised as the “best chicken you’d ever tasted” but sadly this was not the case.
My chicken was very dry and lacked flavor. I mean zero flavors whatsoever. Nada. I thought that the side dishes that I ordered would be my saving grace, but they were subpar. The green chili rice sounded great, but was bland and cold. The black bean and corn side dish also lacked flavor. So while the rest of the table were in taco/nacho heaven, I was in chicken purgatory.
The pluses at this restaurant far surpassed my dry, flavorless chicken and I would definitely recommend it. The staff is wonderful and the restaurant has a great energy to it and I am certain it is going to be a force (aka Nacho), to be reckoned with on Middle Street.
Even though this is not your typical Charleston restaurant it fits right in with the North Charleston "culture". The charcoal cooked chicken was delicious and plentiful, the ribs were perfectly seasoned and fell off the bone, the plantains were delicious. For the amount of food you get, the prices are quite reasonable- a whole chicken plate serves 2 people for $14.99. While the restaurant itself could use some updating, it is the food that will make me want to go back. Also, the waitress was very nice and allowed be to substitute black beans for french fries - and she just kept bringing food out for us to try.
Zia, it's not the lack of service or cilantro-hammered everything that bothers me, it's the piss-poor arrogant attitude of you and your staff. I'm not amused by being treated like an unwelcome disturbance by your self-absorbed, self-impressed bartenders, especially while waiting for food that is mediocre at best.
Zia, I agree with Josh that you need not worry. Your concept is authentic for the Lowcountry in a city that lacks authenticity. Your food continues to shine and that is what will keep you around for a long time. Unlike Josh, I admire your passion and willingness to address what some may view as a hindrance. As a consumer, it is encouraging to see that you take every critique seriously and are not resting on your laurels. Keep doing what you do. You have outlasted many restaurants in the 843.
I've been a Zia "frequenter" since they opened, and while it took me a while to warm up to the "system"...I can now say that it doesn't bother me the least bit and they've gone through many steps to improve it to where I can say it probably works better than it would if it were a more traditional "system." Zia is almost always busy, yet I've rarely every had to wait for a table. Their staff is now at the point where after you've sat down you don't have to get up for extra drinks/food. Everyone can now take your extra drink/food orders after the initial purchase (my order was actually taken BY THE OWNER while I was in line last time...so I didn't even have to go through the initial line...where in Charleston do you see the actual owner busting his ass busing tables and taking orders?!). And as a sign of good business and ownership, they have retained a majority of their same employees since they opened. Poorly run restaurants have high turnover rates. I'd rather go to Zia and know exactly what kind of service experience I'm going to get (which is extremely satisfactory) than suffer through a bad service experience that I get at about 70% of the restaurants in Charleston. Kudos to Zia for bucking the normal Front of House "system" and being successful at it.
relax there "operator of zia". you got props for the food which is all well and deserved but it's true, your system sucks. and now u sound like a douche for putting that post up. I really doubt steph has a personal vendetta against the restaurant.
As the operator of Zia Taqueria I feel the new review in the Dish Guide for Zia Taqueria is unfair and a personal attack against us. Zia Taqueria is a counter-service concept and I am very sorry about any and all frustration that our customers have about the system. The bar seats and high-tops are full service so please grab a seat here and we will provide you full service. If this was a full service restaurant we would have very long waits for tables and have no place for you to relax while you wait for your table. This system allows us to handle a larger number of customers and offer exceptional quality at moderate prices. If you would like to get more drinks from the table please start a tab at the counter and the floor assistants and manager will be happy to assist you throughout your dining experience. I can not express how proud I am of the concept and the way it has been received by Charlestonians. We plan to be here for many years to come and appreciate all your support. Thanks.
Is it just me, or does Santi's seem to be going downhill? I've been going to the downtown location since they opened and it's definitely not as good. Salsa is bland. I don't think good Mexican food downtown is too much to ask.
Two words: pollo ranchero. This is a real meal. I can never order anything else at Santi's. Moist and savory 1/4 chicken comprised of traditional dark meat dripping in spicy ranchero sauce and accompanied by rice, guac salad and those delicious refries. Try it, you'll like it.
I have never been to the one in Summerville, but if it as dirty as you say it is, there need to be some changes. The one on meeting street I find to be quite clean, and I look around for dirty restaurants, i won't usually go back. Except for waffle and huddle houses, they are always dirty and I still go back sometimes.
The food here is, OK. Probably a cut above most standard Mexican fare in Charleston. I go to the one in Summerville though, and I'm sorry. Its, uh, just plain dirty. Cobwebs and dead flies in windows. Odd stains on cloth work everywhere. I'm thinkin', OK, they don't care about cleanliness in this regard, does that apply to the food too?
Totally disagree with Redblood. Love being able to pay up front for the food and not wait for someone to bestow me with a check. In regards to Flatpick, that totally sucks, but nothing like that has ever happened to me in the many times I've been there. The red sauce is to die for, though I agree that they need to give the cilantro a bit of a break on some of the items (does my guacamole really need to be festooned with so much cilantro?). I go there only during the day and the service is great..don't know about night. If you don't like this place, my question is, where is the better Mexican(ish) food in Charleston? Santi? I don't think so...
Place is horrible! Bit into my enchilada and to my surprise the crunchy sound was a piece of glass. The cashier didn't care or offer any condolences. Stay away!
Barberito's is ok, but not that great. The best burrito place I use to go to in Clemson, would steam your Burrito after it was rolled, so the insides were hot. They should really consider this because there warm to cold burritos are really sub par. The salsa has tons of Cilantro which is bad for me and a lot people because some people genetically has a disposition to cilantro. Its in everything these days though. Also, good burrito places carry hot sauces for you to add to your burrito. All they have is there cilantro infused salsa which aren't spicy or that good to begin with.
I don't know how you could say this is like any strip mall Mexican restaurant. It is so far ahead of those places I can't even go to them anymore. You can see everything cooked on the stove right in front of you. There aren't 15 microwaves going like any other Mexican places. Everything is big and delicious, and the pork is great. Its like stewed pork chunks and lots of them. Best Mexican food I have ever had, I just wish there was one of James Island. Thank you so much for opening a good Mexican restaurant, why would anyone ever eat at La hacienda ever again.
This place is not that great, the ordering system is stupid, and the food in slightly overpriced. I would go next door to savory for a better meal.
i've had a different experience at zia.. i think the bartenders are charming and some of the female ones are drop-dead beautiful. they've served me with grace and charm, and sometimes even pretend to flirt with me despite how obnoxious i can be. i've had nothing but a pleasant experience, but then again i'm easily blinded by beauty. the food is pretty good too
nuttier than a squirrel turd. Food is great. the bartenders are fine.
Best fish tacos around, worst bartender around. Notice all the other comments about poor service from the female bartender(rhymes with Hat) below. Not only does she make it obvious she doesn't want to be there, she doesn't want you there either. But damn those are some good fish tacos.
I agree that the food is excellent but the confusion over the self serve vs. traditional restaurant throws people off.....it appears to be a high end restaurant yet they demand self-service....it either is a traditional restaurant or it is a self-serve restaurant where you don't feel as obligated to give a tip because somebody shoved a drink 5 inches across the bar to you.....it can't be both....I vaguely remember something somewhat nasty written on the tip jar as well which I found to be obnoxious considering the setup..... On a side note,to be located so close to a playground,Zia also isn't very kid friendly(think of the mothers who would love to grab a quick bite to eat to take to the playground with them).....The food was excellent but my friend and I have yet to return because quite frankly there wasn't one thing on the menu we felt the kids would enjoy.....I ordered my daughter ( age 4) nachos and even they were weird and she didn't touch them....I did find myself thinking about my chicken quesadilla for several days afterwards.....but I have yet to go back and that is what will make a restaurant successful.....repeat customers. Just my two cents.
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