Who can say no to Mexican street corn? Eats like this are simple, but so very scrumptious. If you haven't had it at the local fair, a favorite food truck, or especially at Taco Mamacita, you're missing out. Taco Mamacita adds an interesting variation by throwing the cob in the deep fryer after roasting it in the husk. The corn comes out too hot to touch but too compelling not to, with a mixture of golden and slightly charred, browned kernels forming an enticing, earth-toned mosaic. A layer of smoky chipotle crema and a dusting of sharp parmesan claims ownership of both corners of your mouth while the sweet kernels pop between your teeth. A mess? Yes, but worth it for the satisfying chaos of sweet, smoky flavors. Tame the party with a crisp Tecate or a smooth shot of Herradura Reposado. And to think, this is just a side dish.
But Taco Mamacita is about more than the elote. It's about fun, laid-back dining. Located on Middle Street in the heart of Sullivan's Island restaurant row, it brings a dose of tequila, Tex-Mex, and even Peruvian food to the beach.
You'll be able to satisfy your taco craving here, at $8.99 for two plus a side, they're cheap. The flour tortilla options fill a page with an appealing array of fillings and condiments. Have your favorite Mexican beer or a glass of sangria handy to relax the heat that comes with the tender roasted Caribbean jerk chicken ($3.75). This one has a bite. Likewise the carnitas. The tender pork ($3.99) gives off a strong, sweet cinnamon flavor with a slight kick. The sweetness is toned down with cool salsa verde, crispy lettuce, pico de gallo, Monterey jack cheese, fresh escabeche of onions, and guacamole.
Speaking of guacamole ($7.99 appetizer), although fresh and made to order, it doesn't quite shine. A little more lime juice and a dash of salt would tweak it to perfection.
The lack of flavor in the guacamole is easily forgiven once you escort a crisp tortilla chip from the deep abyss of cheesy, spicy queso royale ($8.99) into your mouth. A steaming bowl of melted white cheeses, tomatillo cream sauce, and spicy chorizo waits for the last of the chips and soft tortilla wedges to dive in. It's appetizers like this that make us cheat on our entrées.
The seduction doesn't stop there. There are three nacho options that tempt mightily. The Memphis nachos ($9.99) come out spread thin across a huge platter covered with juicy slow-braised pork. Spicy, creamy jalapeño slaw adds a nice bite, contrasting the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.
The Peruvian chicken ($10.99) is marinated in fresh-squeezed lime juice, and the skin is rubbed with a special seasoning before being slow roasted until slightly crispy. Half of a chicken, fall-off-the-bone tender, is served with your choice of two sides. The skin had a slightly sweet and spicy flavor, much more subtle than the menu leads you to expect. A little more spice in the rub would do the trick.
Although the national drink of Peru, Pisco Sour, is not on the menu, the bar is stocked with dozens of superior tequilas. The Cadillac margarita ($9), which is made with Milagro Reposado, Grand Marnier, housemade sweet and sour, orange juice, and fresh-squeezed lime juice, is served in a basic pint glass and tastes about the same as a grocery store margarita mix. The better option is to go for a Michelada ($4). With this version, also known as Chelada, fresh-squeezed lime juice is added to a salted pint glass, which is then filled with a cold Tecate roja.
Those that remember when DJ-Cnile spun tunes at Off the Hook, will notice the space has been freshened up. The long bar frames a display of impressive tequila bottles. The free-standing bar in the middle of the restaurant has been lined with booths on both sides. Old red doors are hung horizontally with pendant lights poking through and providing ample lighting. The long wall opposite the bar is home to some large, bright red oval-shaped booths with big Christmas-like ornaments dangling high above. The large patio is still there and a great place to grab a cold one while watching tourists and locals make their way to the beach or to simply enjoy the fall breeze.
If you are looking for authentic Mexican food and money is no object, you'll want to visit Rick Bayless at Topolobampo in Chicago. Want some tasty Tex-Mex at a good value? Then, Taco Mamacita on Sullivan's is a respectable choice if only for the street corn, which has been bringing me back, again and again.