Malagon Mercado y Taperia Staff Pick

Hours: Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Price: $$

“I’m a tapas virgin,” whispered my dining companion as we walked into Malagon Mercado y Tapería. Be that as it may, even experienced tapas lovers may find themselves a bit wide-eyed — the eight-page menu isn’t fooling around. Rather, it gets right down to some sweet tapas tenderness, starting with familiar snacks like marcona almonds and dates wrapped in ham. The mojama or cured tuna belly, is a classic treat. Firm and salty, it’s often referred to as the jamón of the sea. Malagon serves theirs in the fashion of the Costa de Luz, with seven thin slices drizzled with olive oil. Pair it with some slices of house-made sourdough bread and a glass of the only beer on the menu, Cerveza de Malagon. When asked for input to decide between the calamare with morcilla and chickpeas and the pulpo a feira, the friendly, knowledgeable waiter unilaterally endorsed the latter, stating it was the most tender octopus he’d ever had. And boy howdy, he wasn’t kidding. Accompanied by roughly a dozen baby potatoes, the chunks of octopus have a silky texture similar to that of a rare scallop. The mild flavors of the two soft ingredients are dominated by the sprinkling of smoked paprika on top. Despite being ‘small plates’ and probably owing in part to all the potatoes, the meal was surprisingly filling and notably affordable. A fresh addition to the Charleston dining scene, Malagon is not only doing something different, they’re doing it extremely well. —Vanessa Wolf (Dish, Summer 2019)

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