2006 DISH Summer Dining Guide » Dining Guide

DISH DINING GUIDE ‌ The Spice Is Right

From soul food stops to Brazilian steakhouses, Charleston’s food scene keeps getting spicier

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Waiter Dinilton Pires do Nascimento keeps the skewers of meat coming at Amazon Grill in Goose Creek
  • Waiter Dinilton Pires do Nascimento keeps the skewers of meat coming at Amazon Grill in Goose Creek

Amazon Grill
Steakhouse
Entrées $15-$20
Goose Creek. 1316 Redbank Road. 569-6275
Lunch and Dinner
You like meat? Amazon Grill is for you. An all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrascaria, owned by Brazilians, run by Brazilians, and frequented mainly by Brazilians; the place is for real. The spit-roasted meat makes the rounds, freshly carved onto your plate until you say uncle. Ribeyes, sirloins, lamb legs, even chicken hearts fly off the fire — and the accompanying buffet tables showcase authentic South American fare. It is very family-friendly and at under 20 bucks a head, a fine place to feed an army.

El Dorado
Mexican/Southwestern
Entrées $10-$15
West Ashley. 1109 Savannah Hwy. 763-0699
Lunch and Dinner
Every restaurant guide needs to tout a cookie-cutter Mexican-American place. El Dorado makes that job easy. They serve all the standards that you have become accustomed to wolfing down with cold beer, but if you go for the weekday lunch, they have a buffet. That's right — you can score repeated plates of just about everything offered on the regular menu for less than eight bucks. Tostadas, enchiladas, tacos, taquitos, even hot wings and celery sticks for the bubbas. It could make a college kid cry.

El Mercadito
Mexican/Southwestern
Entrées $10-$15
Johns Island. 3575 Maybank Hwy. 559-7216
Lunch and Dinner
This former taco stand and grocery may have turned into a cliché of a Mexican restaurant, but some of the vestiges of old still remain. We still go for the excellent tacos. Beef Cheek, Pork, Steak, and Chorizo Sausage — they're all still there, served on fresh tortillas and accompanied by the fiery sting of chilis.

Joy Luck
Asian/Indian
Entrées $5-$10
West Ashley. 1303 Ashley River Road. 573-8899
Lunch and Dinner (closed Mon.)
If you're ordering Chinese take-out from any other location in West Ashley, you're probably getting ripped off. Where most have little puny shrimp in big puffs of bread, they have plump juicy ones in a crispy fried shell. Where you often get heat-lamp preparations that taste as if they are made of cardboard, Joy Luck gives you food so fresh that the brown paper bags they bring it in are soaked with the hot grease. Did we mention that the owner himself often delivers the food or that the family also runs Red Orchids? ...'nuff said.

La Norteña
Mexican/Southwestern
Entrées $5-$10
North Charleston. 1861 Remount Road. 225-7055
Lunch and Dinner
If you have never had a real taco (and chances are you haven't) your first bite into a beef cheek taco at this Remount Road place could change your life. Words can't describe the succulence of the meat, the tenderness of a fresh soft tortilla, or the authentic flavor of real chilis. It also happens to be a butcher shop, so in addition to stuffing yourself with insanely delicious carnitas, burritos, and other dirt-cheap fare, you can take home ten pounds of tripe, a couple beef tongues, and enough fire in your belly that you will dread the bathroom for days.

La Playita
Mexican/Southwestern
Entrées $5-$10
Hanahan. 1286 Yeamans Hall Road. 529-0080
Lunch and Dinner (closed Wed.)
Directly across Remount Road from La Norteña, "the little beach" fires up a delicious blend of authentic Mexican flavors and seafood. Specialties include multiple incarnations of the "shrimp cocktail" that are so good, you will drink the sauce. Huge platters of grilled octopus and shrimp come anointed with fresh tomatoes, avocado slices, and cheese. They serve all the standards as well, but bring your Spanish; the place is genuine.

Martha Lou's Kitchen
Southern/Lowcountry
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 1068 Morrison Dr. 577-9583
Breakfast and Lunch
We still get up on Sundays and cry sometimes because Alice's Fine Foods no longer graces the soul food kingdom. But when we need our greasy chicken fix, Martha Lou's comes to the rescue. For years, she's been serving some fine, tasty chicken right out of the skillet, and tea so sweet it would become rock candy if you left it in the sun. Finding it is easy. Head up East Bay Street until you see Martha Lou's plastered in blue across a bright pink cinder block building and hear the melodies of African-American church gospel. The stuff's so good you'll wanna slap yo' mamma.

Olympik Restaurant
Greek/Mediterranean
Entrées $10-$15
West Ashley. 1922 Savannah Hwy. 556-9359
Dinner
This little spot down Highway 17 in West Ashley serves some good Greek food at a great price. They have all the standard items, with some really good tzatziki and a small shop where you can take home authentic imported Greek foods. Family-owned and run, they serve a great quick lunch or a weeknight dinner without breaking the bank.

Osaka
Asian/Indian
Entrées $10-$15
West Ashley. 100 Folly Road. 852-9979
Lunch and Dinner
Our favorite sushi west of the Ashley, Osaka has come back from a devastating fire (seems that someone got a little too happy on the hibachi grill) with a vengeance. They 86'd the fancy flair of the grills and went whole hog on the sushi side. If you get the extra-large sushi platter, your order sails out in a humongous wooden boat, it's worth the trip just to see the look on the other diners' faces when they realize you're the only one eating at your table.

Pa Pa Zu Zu's
Greek/Mediterranean
Entrées $5-$10
Downtown. 370 King St. 534-1666
Lunch and Dinner
This may well be the tiniest downtown restaurant ever to serve such great food. Ultra-fresh veggies, thick garlicky yogurt sauces, and creamy hummus show up next to "gyros as big as your head." The greek salad is so big, fresh, and crunchy you can graze on it for days. Take out is the best way to go, especially on a spring day with Marion Square just a hundred yards away.

Santi's
Mexican/Southwestern
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 1302 Meeting St. 722-2633
Lunch and Dinner
Fresh, delicious, and fast. Santi's has won over a legion of downtown lunch fans with reasonable prices, authentic fare, and friendly waiters. The open kitchen area of the old Huddle House space bustles as Santi and staff prepare fat burritos stuffed full of cheese, beans, beef, and whatever else you want crammed in there. The enchiladas verdes are the best around and Santi's mole sauce is scrumptious.

Shi Ki
Asian/Indian
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 334 East Bay St. 720-8568
Lunch and Dinner
This little downtown Japanese sushi house is tucked away beside the Blockbuster Video on East Bay Street. The sushi is excellent, but we go mainly for the fat selection of noodles — plump udon noodles that come surrounded by tempura-fried seafood, vegetables, and some delicious dashi broth creations. Traditional Japanese tempura appetizers are also good, and with enough non-sushi fare to make ordering easy for the sushi-averse, you can get your raw fish fix even when your landlubbing relatives are in town.

Taste of India
Asian/Indian
Entrées $5-$10
West Ashley. 851 Savannah Hwy. 556-0772
Lunch and Dinner
Tucked away in a nondescript brown building a few yards from the Coburg Cow sits the Lowcountry's best passport to Northern India. Taste of India's freshly-prepared daily lunch buffet (it offers menu service at both meals) can serve as a wonderful introduction to curries, biryanies, mutters, and nans (breads) for Indian cuisine neophytes. Brunch on Sundays features some Southern Indian specialties, too, like the potato-filled pancake dosa, made from scratch right in front of you. Several international and domestic beers are served, if the mango lhasa isn't enough to put you into a Ghandi-like trance.

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