Sometimes you just want a plate of churros at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday.
There’s something beautiful about being able to stop by your favorite restaurant any time from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., though the staff may have other thoughts. At Malagon, chef Juan Cassalet’s new Spanish-style taperia, you can do just that — but be sure to make a reservation first. (Yes, even for the bar.)
Malagon officially opened on Tuesday, and a few afternoon walk-ins found that the restaurant’s Instagram guidance “Reservations available on @resy” was more than mere suggestion. And we don’t predict that you’ll just be able to walk in any time soon at this joint, owned by Patrick and Fanny Panella of Bin 152 and Chez Nous. When we chatted with the Panellas in December, Patrick said “I think we’re bringing probably the first really authentic Spanish restaurant [to Charleston]. We’ve spent a lot of time in Spain. I think it’ll be a Spanish experience that Charleston has sorely been lacking.”
At the time, Patrick said that the menu would consist of classics, but “also some dishes you’ll find in Galicia or areas that are not Americanized versions of Spanish food.”
The menu, bound in red leather, is divided into para picar (snacks), charcuterie y queso, tapas, mas tapas, del mar (from the sea), carne (meat), vegetables, and cafe y postres. There’s also a wall of take-home goodies like tinned fish, olives, rice, and spices common in Spanish cuisine.
Once seated at the long bar or two/four tops, diners get to snack on a pequeno bowl of quicos (corn nuts) while perusing the drink list, which is divided into red, white, sparkling, sherry and vermouth, and beer/cider. By-the-glass prices are extremely reasonable (at least by this writer’s standards), ranging from $8-$25.
I went with a 2012 Tempranillo blend and the croquetas de jamon to start. The three fat, hot, crispy, decadent, divine — you get the gist — ham and bechamel croquettes were another steal at only $7. Tapas typically sets you back — those little numbers to the right add up fast. But if you start with this not-so-small plate, you’ll not need sample the whole menu.
I popped the huge plate of padrons (roasted peppers with sea salt) into my mouth like candy as patrons started filling up the tiny space formerly occupied by Craig Deihl’s Artisan Meat Share. (R.I.P.) As they did, more servers streamed in, too, anticipating the rush.
Donning the Chez Nous-esque uniform of stripes and apron, you implicitly trust the wearer. When I ordered my cortado and paused, the server knew what was coming. “Yeah, I’ll take the churros.” Piping hot and sweet, this, my friends is where the rubber hits the road. I’m not sure how you say that in Spanish, but I’d be happy to learn.
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