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Archive for the ‘James Island’ Category

El Bohio

El Bohio serves good Cuban food in a space adjoined to the pour house on maybank highway. If you are expecting a metro, mojito drinking, fake yuppie sophisticated trendspot, this is not it. The service is good, especially if you are drinking with the servers. Bohio is a great place for good impromptu conversation with the clever, informal, and entertaining staff (I know these folks so I am biased).

The food at Bohio was created by one of the pour house co-owners who’s family actually comes from the Pearl of the Carribean. I like the yucca con mojo and the empanadas as starters, the turkey cuban sandwich for lunch, and any of the plates for dinner (lechon, grilled chicken…) My only complaint is that the platano is a little salty. Also, I wish Bohio would do a cuban roasted chicken, which to me, is the most important dish any Cuban place serves. I don’t care about mojitos or cuba libres though Bohio has a great beer selection. Something about this very unfancy place feels cozy and home-like. It might not be the cuban food of south Florida or NYC, but i think it is a pretty decent rendition. (As an aside, I spent a month in Cuba in 2004 and found the food there generally not as good as comida criolla in America. I think this has to do with the lack of good ingredients there and the lack of motivation under fidel to put much effort into food preparation)

Anyhow, good job Bohio, and please, pollo asado, acere!

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I’ve been eating at Athens retaurant since I could eat solid food, my parents have been eating there since it opened a few decades ago, my grandparents ate there and basically refused to go anywhere else, and I have a picture of myself with marinara all over my face at age 3 or so to prove it all. So needless to say, I am biased. But in terms of quality and portions, Athens easily dominates the competition, not that there’s much.

Greek food as we know it is really Greek-American restaurant food, complete with the ubiquitous mainstays (think spanikopita, moussaka, gyros, tzatziki.) In some places (Manhattan), one can find upscale Greek food, which is probably more upscale and less Greek than it would be willing to admit. In Astoria, Queens, arguably nyc’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood, one can find a variety of good, authentic restaurants often specializing in a certain style or region. Check out this nytimes review:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/dining/22rest.html?ref=dining

Apart from what can be found in Astoria, these styles are just a distant cousin of “real” greek cuisine, which like it’s Italian cousin does vary from isle to isle, from city to city, and from kitchen to kitchen, and which is much more complex than its interpretation in the American restaurant. Imagine, twenty years ago, most Americans would have thought that spaghetti with marinara defined Italian cuisine. Now people are more and more familiar with regional variation in Italy’s food (we basically know the difference between almost North African Sicilian food and the more continental Milanese and Florentine cuisine, etc). After visiting Santorini and Athens somewhat recently, I really hope that the complexity and dynamism of Greek cuisine becomes known here soon. (In the past year or two very high quality greek extra virgin olive oils and excellent wines from the isles and mainland have become available.) As an aside, I believe that Italy has always been the undeserving star of southern europe’s gourmet food exports, but this merits another discussion altogether.

Back to the point of this post, I think that Athens succeeds at providing solid greek restaurant fare and helps to fill what i see as a serious lack in the Charleston dining scene of good, middle priced restaurants. I really like the greek roasted chicken dish with delicate, lemony potatoes, the mezes platter, and basically any of the other old standards. Also, the lunch is a great value at under $10 and can be enjoyed al-fresco in the warmer months. I think part of Athens success is owed to the constant presence of its owners, the Koutsiganakis brothers, and their very level approach. Since the big move from the previous location, one can see their vision beginning to pan out in what has obviously been well and long planned. While Abu has some beef with Athens’ Cafe’s take out policies, it remains and old stand-by for me and my people.

Tito

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The first time I ate at this place left me feeling bad for the guys. The next time made me never go back. I walked into this dumpster smelling shanty of a room adjacent to a Folly Road surf shack and proceeded to have a truly third world dining experience. And seriously, the room smelled like the inside of a wet dumpster. During the thirty minutes of waiting for two burritos, I also noticed a roach infestation problem. Apart from the ridiculous wait (thirty minutes for 2 tiny burritos), the environment was so terrible that my friends and I decided to leave. Up until this point, I had never walked out of a restaurant in my life.

How could this happen? How is this place in business? Does the staff notice the trash smell? And finally, how do they have an A rating? I really feel bad for these poor guys and wonder if they shouldn’t just stick to selling weed. Also, though it’s almost of no consequence, the food sucks as well. Wait, I did have one good thing; amazingly, the grouper fish taco. Pero que podrida eres tu, La Cocina!

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Mondo’s

I’ve tried to like this place for years and while I don’t think it’s terrible, I don’t think its good either. If I am going to eat Italian food in a decrepit, outdated space, it should be excellent. The portions are large, the prices are moderately high, and the food is unremarkable. I think this speaks to the quality (or lack therof) of good, simple, middle priced Italian eateries in the area. Though somehow, the dining room remains packed. On a lighter note, the lunch is decent and well priced with huge portions and pleasant service. I wish I could like Mondo’s more but I don’t.

Visits to Mondo’s: +10

Prices: entrees around $18. 

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