Upscale Yet Casual Johns Island Eatery Doubles as Cantina
Jeff Walker, Restaurant Review
The very first thing you sense when you walk in to dine at Minero Mexican Grill & Cantina at 3140 Maybank Hwy is 'am I in Johns Island South Carolina'. The new upscale yet affordable and ultra casual Mexican grill and cantina from The Neighborhood Dining Group has the feel of a restaurant that you would find on a tropical island including appropriate decor, background music, and more importantly their menu.
Open less than a month and from the same dining group that includes Husk and Delaney Oyster House, Minero follows in the same tradition as the aforementioned eateries. Neighborhood Dining Group has a similar Mexican themed restaurant in Atlanta. Every detail at the newest addition on Johns Island from customer service to food presentation is meticulous. If you like staff who are attentive and prefer dining destinations that are ethereal I recommend putting Minero on your dining out short list.
The best way to start is with their 'To Start' selections. Eight signature appetizers with several easily doubling as preferred entree choices. The Minero Wings are delight. Tossed in Valentina (Mexican hot sauce) and charcoal grilled to perfection. Goes great with their comprehensive beer list featuring both Mexican and local options. The starter list also includes perhaps the zestiest guacamole dip ($12) I've tasted in greater Charleston as well as three unique salsas.
The Benne salsa is a sweet and spicy blend of sesame and tahini providing a light nutty taste. The Verde usually crafted from tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, lime, and cilantro presents with a bold taste with a kick. The mild and smokey Roja (red) Salsa is unlike what you'll get in typical run of the mill Mexican restaurants. It's thick with character and leaves a nice pleasant aftertaste. Sample all three for just $6. The salsas and guacamole make a nice complement to their slightly thicker seasoned nacho chips. Ideal with a cold beer or frozen margarita.
If you relish in corn on the cob grilled with parmesan on the grill than you'll enjoy Minero's Sweet Corn appetizer, coated in minced pork rinds and a seasoned cheese medley. Seafood lovers will delight in the Broiled Oysters Bravo enhanced with chipotle peppers, cotija cheese, and mezcal. Going full tilt, follow the oysters with a shot of Agave (tequila).
In case you're wondering nearly everything on their menu is prepared fresh including house made corn or flour tortillas. The flavorful ingredients surrounding their five signature tacos are sliced, diced, and chopped daily to provide the purest taste possible. Among the favorites early on are the Fried Catfish Taco and the Pork Al Pastor which satisfies the sweet and salty palate. Shredded pork blanketed around grilled pineapple and white onion with avocado puree'. Fantástico!
Vegans might relish in the Cauliflower Taco sprinkled with red onion and salsa macha (dried chiles, garlic, nuts & seeds fried in oil) served with cotija, a white and salty aged Mexican cheese. Grab any two tacos for $11 or three for just $16. Zesty, scrumptious and easy on the wallet. An easily shared entree.
Minero's food menu isn't extensive but it does offer a nice variety. Non meat eaters might fancy the Heirloom Tomato & Peach Salad or the more heartier Minero Chopped Salad. Add shrimp, chicken, steak or pork to any salad for $5-$7. Enjoy a burrito straight up or in a bowl, or a quesadilla veggie style or with any of your favorite meats. Prices range from $11 to $19.
Carrying a generous appetite with you to Minero's than three particular menu items might fill the void. Their Minero Double Cheeseburger is everything you expect in a burger. An ample twin patty blend of beef & pork (80/20) under white American cheese and red onions then slathered with a zesty sauce. Juicy with the right amount of bite to it. Served with seasoned fries for just $17.
Seafood lovers may prefer the Yucutan Style Local Catch, a zesty and colorful plate complete with crispy fingerling potatoes, yum yum peppers (miniature sweet peppers), and traditional pibil sauce, a mild and slightly sweet mixture of onion and tomato puree introduced into concentrated orange juice and spices. An appetizing and eye appealing dish.
The Crispy Kan Kan Pork Tomahawk plate is easily the most abundant entree. Ideal for two to share or one ravenous appetite. Typically this tomahawk shaped cut of pork loin comes deep within the hog near the rib and flowers along the bone, allowing a more luscious and sweeter taste, which is amplified by the guava BBQ sauce and avocado. Delivered to your table with fried sweet plantains, red rice, and charro beans (seasoned pinto) it's south of the border's version of barbecue. Cap this entree with a robust wine and you've dined out well.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention their half dozen sides. Apart from their seasoned fries, the remaining five are all decidedly Mexican themed and comfortably complement any entree. While red rice and refried beans are standard fare, it's the Fried Sweet Plantains and the Red Scarlett Charro Beans (ranch style pinto beans fortified with meat, usually pork) and tomatoes, chilies and spices, all simmered in a hearty broth that add a distinctive flair to your meal. Take my word for it, you've never had fried plantains like this in Charleston. Are they a side or a dessert? Either way they're amazing!
Three set desserts dot their Sweet Treats menu and any would complete an authentic Mexican meal. The T's Tres Leches (heavy three milk cake) is a popular convection south of the border adorned with shredded coconut and whipped cream. The Mango Popsicle adds to dining experience with its blend of chile and lime zest. However, for chocolate lovers I recommend the Mexican Chocolate Mousse, a decadent treat with a slight churro crunch all beneath a heavenly passion fruit glaze.
Minero's bar menu reflects several Mexican cantinas with a few twists. Frozen drinks abound including a Passion Fruit Margarita and their Frose' & Sangria which Minero equate to 'a fairy tale wedding drink'. All your favorite Mexican and American beers are available, some in bottles and some on draft. Local beers from neighboring Low Tide, Estuary, and Revelry. Add in three signature cocktails, non alcohol fruity drinks, wine, chilled shots and my personal favorite Mexican Coke and you have a splendid array of cold adult and under 21 beverages to choose from. Current happy hour is Wed-Fri 4-6pm.
As I mentioned early on, the overall ambiance sets the mood for patrons, whether sitting at the cantina counter, enjoying a meal on the spacious covered open air deck or in the front side dining room. Lively and appropriate music flows throughout. Guests enter from the rear of the building adjacent to the oversized parking lot. Landscape fits the decor with a tropical foliage surrounding a common picnic area complete with cornhole boards. The general vibe is designed for good food and good times. Mission accomplished!
Coming attractions include weekend brunch, live entertainment on the covered patio which by the way can be easily secured during inclement weather. Executive Chef Shamil Velazquez who helped design the menu and does double duty at Delaney may introduce specials from time to time. With Kevin King as General Manager and a very knowledgeable staff under him, Minero's will no doubt thrive at their current location.
David Howard, president of the Neighborhood Dining Group has struck food & beverage gold once again. With the addition of Minero Grill & Cantina on Johns Island, NDG now have six locations to serve you including Husk in Savannah, Nashville, and downtown Charleston, alongside Delaney Oyster House at 76 Queen St., and another Minero Mexican restaurant in the vibrant Ponce City Market area of Atlanta.
The beauty of Minero Mexican Grill & Cantina is you can go so many ways. In with friends after work or with that special someone and light eaters, maybe order two or three selections from the 'To Start' menu. Mix and match tacos, maybe chicken for the kids and a grilled steak taco for you. Little ones 10 and under can choose any of five items from the Lil’ Luchador Menu, all under $8.
Minero is decidely Mexican with hints of the southwest, Baja California, and some of the neighboring tropical islands. Quoting from Minero's Facebook page, 'They say you should live your passion…we say you should eat & drink your passion'. Simply put, dining at Minero is akin to experiencing a food & beverage fiesta! Ole!
Minero Mexican Grill & Cantina is currently open Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday: 4pm – 9:30pm, and 4-11pm on Friday & Saturday. You'll find them at 3140 Maybank Hwy on Johns Island. No doubt locals including neighboring James Island, West Ashley, Kiawah and Seabrook Island will become regulars at Minero. For more call 843.278.8998 or visit their website at https://minerojohnsisland.com/