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Charleston gets Caliente

New "Lowcountry" Mexican restaurant on Savannah Hwy.

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They had barely been open a week when word-of-mouth reports started rolling in. Friends out in West Ashley and Johns Island were telling us about a new Mexican restaurant that was worth trying. We haven't been able to get there yet ourselves, but we did speak with the owners of Caliente, Craig and Stephanie Benti, to get the scoop.

The restaurant, located at 3669 Savannah Highway on Johns Island, opened July 22 in the former Charlestowne General Store location. When Stephanie was laid off earlier this year, she says opening a restaurant with her husband seemed like the natural thing to do. Craig uses Lowcountry ingredients and fresh local produce to create classic Mexican dishes like enchiladas, quesadillas, and burritos. But don't expect to find the same flavors here as you would at the usual Mexican restaurant. "It's not your traditional Mexican food. It's a lot fresher and healthier," says Stephanie.

The restaurant boasts fresh, homemade salsa and all-natural margaritas. Customers with a sweet tooth should try one of the desserts, which are made in house by former pastry chef Stephanie. The creative décor includes tables constructed from the hoods of old cars. "It has a great atmosphere, and it's a really colorful place to be," Stephanie adds. We can't wait to check it out.

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