15 Center St.
A sign of impending apocalypse -- or at least that Folly Beach can no longer claim to be a bohemian paradise of slackers, miscreants, and fugitives at the "Edge of America" -- may actually be the portly Zorro-looking hombre with no neck, sporting a black eye mask, cheap sombrero, bulging chipmunk cheeks, and a couple of buckteeth.
Who is this masked man? None other than Taco Boy, Folly Beach superhero, the very same one who decorates numerous T-shirts, koozies, patches, stickers, and hats proffered right below the Mexican red rice ($.95), refried black beans ($.95), and chipotle cole slaw ($1.25) that serve as the side items on the menu at Folly Beach's newest (and basically only) taqueria -- which according to our cartoon hero means "handcrafted tacos made with love."
Fifteen years ago, you could have scoured the earth around Charleston and been hard-pressed to find a fresh corn tortilla, let alone the cornucopia of Latin American food that now inhabits the gritty industrial crannies of metro Charleston. Such taquerias could be a roving North area taco van at three in the morning, a rural roadside chile shack, or a more conventional place like La Norteña's original digs in the back of a strip mall butcher shop. Gorging at an authentic taqueria means bellying up to cheap stacks of tortillas, toppings, and obscure sauces that threaten internal meltdown with every additional drop.
Taco Boy has authentic touches -- bottles of Valentine hot sauce adorn the tables, the aforementioned corn tortillas, the commemorative "Carnitas Norteno Taco" ($2.95), a spicy mound of pork, roasted poblano chiles, and a smoky ancho chile sauce. It tries hard to find an authentic voice while still persuading a constant parade of youthful hard bodies into bellyfuls of rather decent tacos and quesadillas washed down with an array of high margin liquor and beer.
Despite these humble touches of authenticity, Taco Boy exemplifies an internationalized Mexican cuisine. Ordering up a "Baja Fish Taco" ($3.75) and a side of guacamole will have you seeing visions of a deserted beach somewhere south of Tijuana, hands dripping with a delicious trickle of fishy grease and the draining whey of a cool yogurt. Topped with sliced red cabbage and stuffed full of a delicious deep fried slab of dolphin, it presents a strange but altogether satisfying fusion -- part Latin, a touch West Coast chic, and owing a certain debt to those Germanized falafels that one eats at four in the morning after a long night in Berlin; the fish taco isn't exactly dripping with traditional authenticity, but it ain't too bad, either.
The guacamole ($6.95) comes fresh, which, for any fan of the numerous pack-them-in-for-big-margaritas joints about town, will come as a refreshing surprise. Chunks of avocado get smashed up with tomatoes, some onion, chilies, a touch of garlic, and salt. When it's good, it's really good, but the stuff lacks consistency, appearing bland, like a pile of vegetable fluff, before transforming itself on your next visit into a substance that could be used to rim a margarita -- makes you want to order three and play Goldilocks, but at seven bucks a pop, you might just hope for the insipid version and finger the salt shaker.
Despite the occasional bobbles in consistency, quality usually predominates at Taco Boy. The "Chorizo and Potato Taco" ($2.95) stuffs some rather tasty stuff into a traditional presentation. Fat quesadillas ($6.95-8.95) dripping with cheese are solid sources of beach trip grub, and the taquitos ($5.95) -- fried tortillas wrapped around the kitchen's overflow of chorizo and carnitas -- might be the perfect Folly Beach bar snack. With a little toss of hot sauce, your tongue will be left wagging and you'll require an order from the bar -- precisely what the creators of Taco Boy had in mind.
For four bucks you probably can't get a better munch on Folly, but the booze, which along with Taco Boy himself occupies half the menu, can get a bit pricey if you're looking for a cheap beach buzz -- a delicious, if slightly weak margarita will set you back at least five bucks; premium versions (which do show improved character) come in at eight dollars. Mexican beer, of which they have a nice selection, runs four dollars. For the gullible, a one-dollar "Michelada" treatment will ice the beer with fresh lime juice and hot sauce and add a salted rim (of course, with a bit of ingenuity, you probably have all of the ingredients for this preparation on your table already). Hardcore tipplers flush with cash will undoubtedly sample the $10 tequila flights. True seekers of Mexico will book a flight immediately, or at least drive to North Chuck. The rest will enjoy Taco Boy for what it is -- a swank beach bar with tasty grub.