Saturday, August 25, 2007


Went to El Progresso again this week, mostly because my friend likes one of the waitresses there. The agua fresca and the tacos were alright, but I think I'll wait until tamale season to return again.

The churros we picked up at La Tapatia on the way back downtown, on the other hand, were great. And the pan dulce made an excellent early breakfast the next day.

Still no more signs of the taco van at the College. Maybe it was a mirage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

El Progreso

For lunch today, my friends the Petitpain brothers and I headed to Rivers Ave to visit La CabaƱa, a Mexican place we've passed many times, but never tried. It wasn't open yet, though, so we kept driving north along Rivers and turned onto Remount Rd, looking for another new place to check out. Also wanting to escape the heat, we passed a few taco trucks and eventually settled on a restaurant called El Progreso, situated next to an old strip mall which is home to a few other Latin-American businesses.

The dining room was busy, with a lot of the customers eating from the buffet. Our waitress spoke excellent English, and was able to easily answer the few questions we had. (When I asked for a translation of "cachete," though, she moved her eyes around as she searched for the word, then smiled, shrugged, and pinched her cheek.) The buffet did look pretty good, but we all ordered tacos and sopes from the menu; somehow tacos al pastor are always the first thing I want to try at a new place. Once we had ordered, we sat back at our corner table, drinking our agua de tamarindo and exchanging smiles with the women making tortillas in the kitchen while we waited for our food.

The pastor was alright, but quite different than any of us had tried before; it was a little more spicy and it seemed to be cooked in a sauce. (I asked the waitress whether this was a regional variation, but she didn't really have an answer.) Honestly, I doubt I would order it again. But the tortillas and the cachete on my sope were pretty good; between that and the warm atmosphere, and the promise of tamales de puerco on the buffet, I'm sure we'll visit again.

When we went to the counter to pay, I started to tell the woman at the cash register, what I'd ordered.

"Dos tacos y..."

"And one sope and an agua fresca?"

I smiled and said, "yeah."

Now thinking that she spoke English, I asked whether they were open every day of the week, but she only furrowed her brow and called our waitress over to answer. Sometimes there's a nice give and take to even an awkward conversation on the border.

On the way back downtown we stopped in at La Tapatia to try a churro and I picked up some pan dulce for breakfast tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Favorites

When taking a friend on their maiden visit to an obscure lunch spot I've raved about, I always have my fingers crossed that it'll be a good day in the kitchen. So when I met my pal Jonathan out at El Palenque this weekend, after a couple of months of building anticipation, I was especially happy to be served some of the finer tacos I've had there - fresh tortillas, and cabeza and pastor de puerco at their best. The only small disappointment was that the Coca-Cola Jonathan ordered was the familiar, norteamericano variety and not Mexican Coke, which is typically made with sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. Altogether, we had a fantastic meal, and I think he's hooked.

On the way there I stopped in at a panaderia in the shopping center just a little further along Remount Rd. La Tapatia is a little grocery and bakery with a beautiful display of various pan dulce, bolillos, churros and other delicacies. With the help of a man who was doing some repair work in the kitchen, I picked out two pieces of pan dulce for breakfast the next day. The two women at the counter were friendly, and enthusiastically asked me if I knew Spanish; I told them I was trying to learn.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Had lunch today at one of my favorite spots; el Palenque is a restaurant and butcher shop on Remount Rd, in the heart of North Charleston's spanish-speaking community. I hadn't been there in a few weeks, and I was a little disappointed to see that they had replaced their very cool graffiti style painted sign ("Restaurante y Carniceria", "Tenemos mariscos") with a much more conservative one. But the tortillas and chorizo were fresh and the cabeza, which I had never tried before, was delicious. El Palenque's aguas frescas are always good, and intense heat of the afternoon made the agua de melon especially refreshing.

On the way we stopped by our most long-running favorite, Las Lupitas, but found them still closed for renovation..

Last week I spotted two women selling sopes and boxed lunches out of the back of an unmarked van parked at a construction site on the College of Charleston campus. It's not exactly a taco truck, and prepared meals aren't quite as exciting as items made to order, but it was the first time I had seen what seemed like authentic Mexican food being served downtown. I stopped to talk for a minute, and they told me they would be there every day, but I haven't been able to go back and try it out yet. Maybe I'll make it by this week.