As a general rule I try to stay away from tequila before noon but I made an exception Wednesday at Zia Taqueria. I had already visited Zia last friday night and was impressed with the food and owner Kevin Grant that I knew I would have to come back to take some pictures….and eat more food. I arrived right at the 11am opening so I could take pictures with my bigger camera and not interrupt others people’s meal. Zia is located at a small shopping center that is anchored by the Terrence Movie Theater on James Island.
Zia immediately stands out from the other shops in the Terrence shopping center due to the southwest flair of the facade, two palm trees flanking the entrance and the large Zia symbol above it all. You may recognize the Zia symbol if you have ever seen the New Mexico state flag. Besides meaning aunt in Italian, Zia is a symbol that is sacred to the Zia Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Stepping across the threshold of Zia you are instantly transported to the southwest by the warm colours on the walls and how the space is garnished with southwestern style art and artifacts.
I took a seat at the bar and the friendly bartender didn’t even have to ask me what I wanted. The memory of the Zia Rita I tasted Friday night was still clear in my mind and knew I would be throwing the “no tequila before noon rule” out the window. This isn’t your run of the mill, syrup based margarita. One taste and you can tell everything was made fresh and that would be an ongoing theme throughout my lunch. I ordered the Chile con queso for an appetizer and Beef Barbacoa with a side of mexican rice. While sipping my Rita, Kevin emerged from the back and between dipping my chips in a excellent fresh salsa I had a chance to pick his brain about Zia.
As soon as Kevin opens his mouth you can sense the passion and love for what he does and you can taste it by what comes from the kitchen. Kevin spent time in Albuquerque, New Mexico and its apparent he picked up a few things along the way. Kevin started Taco Boy which is a Taqueria on the touristy Folly Beach and due to creative differences he branched out on his own to open Zia Taqueria. As Kevin put it “everything happens for a reason” and now he’s putting out the food he wants out at Zia.
Soon my Beef Barbacoa and rice made it to the bar and it looked amazing. Friday night I had the Barbacoa on a taco and the nicely spiced, slow cooked beef that filled the taco had me thinking about it the next few days. Wednesday I went with the enchilada because the tacos are served on a warmed soft corn tortilla and I personally like my corn tortillas crunchy and fried (or baked). I went with the green salsa verde sauce over the red chile and it was excellent choice, but I don’t recommend it to anyone that doesn’t like a bit of heat because it did have a little kick. The mexican rice was another winner, it was light with a slight tomato flair and the taste of garlic, onion and carrots dancing in the background. The only thing at Zia that fell short of my expectations was the Pastor taco (had on friday night) which is explained as “Seared tender bits of pork marinated in achiote guajillo glaze with minced pineapple & onion–cilantro relish”. I felt the pastor was lacking a bit in the flavor department and didn’t quite live up to that glowing description. I almost forgot about the chili con queso which I felt was a pretty good rendition of the classic appetizer and made good dipping for my chips with little bits of red bell pepper.
Over all my 17 dollar lunch (without the tip and with a good size margarita) was well worth it. The food was fresh, full of flavor and enough to satisfy (left a little bit of chili con queso behind). The service was friendly and it was noticeable that Kevin’s engaging demeanor is passed down to his employees. Kevin takes pride in the local following and a menu that is simple and fair priced. The menu is not long and overwhelming because Zia has decided to take a few things and do them well. I definitely plan to take another trip to the southwest via Jamestown, South Carolina at Zia Taqueria.
**IF YOU HAVE BEEN TO ZIA TAQUERIA PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT OR REVIEW, GOOD OR BAD!!**