The big story over in Mt. Pleasant these days is the rejuvenation of Coleman Boulevard. The most prominent addition is the Boulevard, a mixed-use apartment and retail community lauded for its beautiful landscaping, tree-scaped medians, street parking, and overall curb appeal.
Right next door, at Scratch Taco Boutique, you'll find the best margarita in all of Mt. Pleasant. I'm not talking about anything fancy; I'm talking about a straight-up classic margarita where the only twist is a little lime zest joining the salt on the rim. Four bucks will score a classic during happy hour (regularly $7). Be warned: they're addictive.
Unfortunately, despite the promise of the margaritas, the food falters. Scratch aims to bring us fresh tacos by making everything in-house using locally sourced ingredients. But proper menu execution is a key success factor, and at Scratch, there's no hiding the bad behind the words "locally sourced."
Some people still believe an avocado pit will keep a bowl of guacamole fresh, but even if this myth were true, there'd be no justification for a customer to be served one in a supposedly freshly made bowl of guacamole. Alas, a pit came with our dark green guacamole, which also arrived with an empanada filled with beef, potato, and fontina ($5) and accompanied by chimichurri. I had high hopes for the empanada, but, sadly, I was reminded of Harris Teeter's frozen dinner aisle.
The grainy, pasty, and flavorless "queso" ($5) was an inexcusable mess reminiscent of lukewarm extra-thick grits that have been sitting under a heat lamp for hours. We ordered it once, but on another occasion an unrequested order was dropped at our table. It sat there for at least five minutes before I could flag a server, who picked it up and delivered it two seats down to another couple. That is a serious service lapse.
When it comes to ordering fries, be aware that you'll be entering an annoying game of fry roulette. Order the truffle fries with Parmesan, chives, and garlic aioli, and you might get classic house-cut fries with ketchup or salt and pepper fries with an invisible side of bearnaise. We played the game three times and never won.
And then there are the 12 tacos plus an occasional special. They're five bucks a pop, and damn, they sound good. Imagine: pork belly, hoisin, scallion, and cucumber kimchi in a house-made corn tortilla. Or how about fresh mahi mahi tempura battered and fried topped with yuzu aioli, kimchi, pickled daikon, fish roe, and wasabi in a fresh flour tortilla? Makes my mouth water, but regrettably, what sounds good isn't. The pork belly was all fat and disintegrated the dry corn shell, making for a messy eat. The tempura taco was nothing short of a vinegar bomb wrapped in a flour tortilla reminiscent of cardboard.
After an unsuccessful first visit, we stopped in twice more and sampled all but one of the regular tacos, only to find chewy, under-seasoned steak, dry chicken, and many soggy, broken tortillas.
Scratch has a great concept — an upscale taco joint using local ingredients that offers Mt. Pleasant a fresh option for a quick bite or a night filled with great food and drinks. But when the single best dish on the menu is a chopped salad loaded with country ham, chicken, bacon, gruyere, tomatoes, avocados, croutons, and buttermilk dressing ($9/$12), there's a problem. "Locally sourced" and "farm-to-table" might lure guests in, but unless (or until) service improves and the food lives up to the menu descriptions many won't be back. Unless, that is, they come for the margaritas.