Bartaco Bringing New Food & Drink Experience to 304 King St.

Charleston's Newest Eatery Combining Upscale Street Food & Unique Beverages With Overall Ambiance

Jeff Walker, Restaurant Review 

Pop into 304 King Street in downtown Charleston and you're immediately transported to a different dimension. Southwestern influenced, Bartaco is an upscale street-style food & beverage establishment that gives the impression you're dining at a very hip and modern coastal 'beach bar' eatery along the Baja California coast or an exclusive seaside village in South America. aaaaaaaabartacologo

However, since the Holy City is known for it's eclectic and ever evolving food & beverage scene, it's no surprise an innovative and incredibly unique restaurant like Bartaco has joined the Charleston dining landscape. On the surface as much as Bartaco presents as a combination from the words 'bar & taco', in reality they are far above your run of the mill bar, and even further above your everyday taco restaurant.

Founded in 2010 by Scott Lawton and Sasa Mahr-Batuz in Port Chester NY, with the addition of Charleston the restaurant chain currently operates 30 locations, mostly along the eastern United States from Massachusetts to Florida, including additional spots in Illinois and Colorado.

While Bartaco's food menu is somewhat extensive, outside a kids menu they focus on four specific groupings covering not-tacos, rice bowls, select desserts, and a dozen signature tacos that include a few vegan options like a pistachio cauliflower taco placed over chickpea hummus topped with pistachio chimichurri, a falafel, or mushrooms tacos served with queso fresco (a hearty & seasoned white cheese sauce). All hearty and under 200 calories. aaaaaaaabartacotacos

Meat, seafood, and wild game lovers have a plethora of taco choices at Bartaco, with just about all of them enticing to the local palate. What carnivorous southerner wouldn't relish in a perfectly glazed pork belly taco glistening in a zesty arbol chili sauce for an added kick. Enjoy citrus enhanced peppery seafood? I recommend the chile-lime shrimp taco. It will tantalize the taste buds. The seasoned sesame ribeye is equally as delectable. 

Not to be outdone the wild duck taco allows a nice variance from the norm, with Bartaco's offering a pleasant yet intensely succulent wild game bird prepared nicely in a tamarind sauce (a flavorful sweet & sour blend). Tacos range from $3 to $6 (crispy oyster), and for around $12 you can dine or three or four, served at your table family style in case your sharing with friends of family.

The Not Taco portion of the bill of fare carries more than 15 options including salads, guacamole, black beans, a chicken tortilla soup, and a roasted half chicken. For my money the duck birria is one of the best appetizers on the menu, moist shredded duck surrounded by oaxaca and cotija cheeses, before being wrapped in crispy tortilla shells and served with a birria-style duck consomme for dipping. And exceptional handheld delight. aaaaaaaabartacoduckapp

If you're craving a semi-sweet pop in your mouth snack-able I recommend the lightly fried plantains (bananas exotic starchy cousin), complete with Bartaco's home-made gordita sauce which is best described as ranch meets mild hot sauce. It has a warm texture and just the right amount of snap. aaaaaaaabartacobowl

Forgo the soft shell and enjoy several of the taco fixings on a warm bed of rice. The Seared Chorizo (traditional Spanish pork, seasoned in smoked paprika & garlic) will kick start the palate and set the tone for an amazing lunch or dinner. A half dozen rice bowls for your dining pleasure including the ever popular ahi tuna. 

A bazillion (a slight stretch) things set Bartaco apart from the competition. Their chips don't come in chip form, rather as giant, tortilla-like chips that you break apart (similar to Spanish communion). You can dip them in traditional guac sauce, roja (ripe tomatoes & chile peppers), or verde (tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, lime, and cilantro medley). It's a pleasant change of pace and a nice communal way to share an appetizer. aaaaaaaabartacoapp1

As extraordinary as their edibles are, Bartaco provide a wealth of adult beverages and are home to some of the best margaritas you’ll wrap your teeth and gums around, with several of their signature cocktails concocted from Bartaco's own special blend Libélula Joven and Libélula Reposado Tequilas. Their namesake Bartaco Margarita is an invigorating elixir infused with Libélula Joven with splashes of triple sec, agave syrup, and lime juice for a tad tartness.  

The Orange Crush is like liquid sunshine in a glass. Clean, crisp artisanal Wheatley Vodka swirled in a blend of triple sec, fresh orange juice, and Orange Fanta for effervescence. A half dozen sangria and wine choices, complement another dozen canned or bottled beers including IPAs, pilsners, and Mexican lagers that easily accompany the entire food menu.

Not an alcohol drinker or maybe relegated to be the designated driver, enjoy a berry colada, an arnie palmer, or Mexican cane sugar Coca-Cola. When in Rome, or in this case Spain, South America, or any tropical paradise, than drink like the locals do. A vast array of refreshing and colorful beverages await you at Bartaco. aaaaaaaabartaco1

Desserts run their own course. Churros (fried Spanish pastry) and tres leches (airy milk cake) bring a delightful meal to an epic close. True southerners might opt for Bartaco's classic key lime pie in a jar. However, if you want to end your experience with a little more fun, and take coolness to the next level then order any of their four flavors of gelato served in cup or cone form. Their coconut and mint chip are divine! $3.95 a pop or get all four for a mere $12. aaaaaaaabartacocream1

When it comes to customer service Bartaco embrace the traditional while leaning to the tech side. Patrons can access their menu via the QR code on the table, place their selections using an order form, and have servers attend to their needs simply by placing Bartaco's signature dragonfly card on a table stand. They even leave room to list any allergies you or your guests might have. That's forward thinking.

Coming full circle, Bartaco with their unique menu and presentation are a welcome addition to Charleston's food and beverage community. Furthermore they have embraced the never ending history of the Holy City by up-fitting a former King Street alley way, leaving authentic brick as the interior facade, additionally utilizing woodwork, old doors and windows that were there prior.

Aside from the locations history, Bartaco charmingly presents with an eye pleasing aesthetic decor overflowing with soft wood tones, hanging baskets, foliage, and cream colored wrought iron. A second story loft provides additional dining space all the while adding a relaxing living room style area overlooking the main floor. The loft is a perfect setting for larger parties and social gatherings. aaaaaaaabartacolounge

Safe to say Bartaco's bill of fare is equal to their surroundings and overall ambiance. Latin inspired dishes, street-style tacos, plus cocktails, beer, and wine dot their menu. They combine old school hospitality with modern day customer service. And while their main objective is to deliver incredible food and drink, they do so by providing a complete dining experience. You can order ahead for pickup, and word on the street (King actually) is they even cater.

Stop by Bartaco at 304 King Street or to discover more about their menu visit their website at