Best JI Restaurant 4 years in a row!

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UPDATED for 2016, 2017 & 2018

We want to thank the readers of Charleston City Paper for voting Zia Taqueria Best James Island Restaurant 2015-2018, and remind ourselves we would not be where we are without our loyal, fun-loving customers and our dedicated, hard-working staff. We are happy to share the accolades and celebrate with our greater Charleston community. Thanks a million Charleston!

Get the Al Pastor

Two weeks later at Zia Taqueria I contemplate the menu for a while before remembering our conversation. “Get the al pastor,” Szlam had recommended. “Get it with the flour tortillas — sour cream and guacamole only.”

And he’s right. A dish I usually treat with rustic complements, girding a corn tortilla with piquant red sauces and sharp raw onion takes on a luscious, and quite subtle, expression of Zia’s al pastor, the sharp, almost citrusy tang of the shaved pork allowed to take a larger role.
— Jeff Allen, Charleston City Paper
 “Former chef David Szlam isn't afraid to tinker with the toppings on his al pastor at Zia”  Photo:  Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

“Former chef David Szlam isn't afraid to tinker with the toppings on his al pastor at Zia”

Photo: Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

Sweet-and-Sour Fire

While some City Paper staffers swear by Zia Taqueria’s torta — the bread’s killer — the beef barbacoa plate is not to be missed. The beef is tender, spicy, surprisingly tangy, and comes in a massive mound. If you play your cards right and scarf down more than your fair share of chips and salsa, you can easily have enough leftover for lunch the next day. That task will be made all the easier thanks to your choice of two sides; we recommend the borracho beans (pinto beans simmered with garlic, onion, carnitas, tomato, cilantro and Negra Modelo) and the Mexi-slaw (cabbage, green onion, and cilantro with a tangy dressing). And if you want to experience some heat, you’re going to love the pickled jalapeño relish on the side. It’s like sweet-and-sour fire.
— Chris Haire, Charleston City Paper
 “Zia’s tremendous platter of spicy and tender barbacoa”  Photo:  Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

“Zia’s tremendous platter of spicy and tender barbacoa”

Photo: Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

We Have Many Favorites

We have many favorites at this great little taqueria. Like the tart margaritas that come served in tall pint glasses. Like the fish tacos that you can get for $2.50 on Mondays. Like the spicy verde sauce, which we could drink by the bucket, and the fantastic chicken enchiladas, or the big, messy tortas, and the generous platos (they could easily feed a small family). There’s not a bad thing on the entire menu, and we should know. We’ve eaten pretty much everything on it.
— Stephanie Barna, Dish (Summer 2013)
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A Single Word: Outstanding

Really, a critique could be accomplished in a single word: outstanding. When it comes to Tex-Mex, words like ‘fresh,’ ‘traditional,’ and ‘authentic’ are tossed around like so many jumping beans. Once in a while, the descriptions are actually true.
Here, it’s practically a religion. Even the garnishes are given solemn attention: the jalapeño relish is a simpatico blend of sweet and spicy, starred with whole garlic cloves, and the standard pico de gallo is anything but. Its bright tang, as with so many other items on Zia Taqueria’s menu, begs the query: ‘What is that I’m tasting?’
Flavors are delicate. They revolve; they surprise. The owners’ search for rare spices and peppers succeeds many times over, from the savory dry rub on the Beef Barbacoa plate to the achiote-guajillo glaze on the Pastor (pork with pineapple) tacos.
— Blaise Covert, Bold Life
 Robert and Kevin at Zia Asheville Photo:  Bold Life Magazine

Robert and Kevin at Zia Asheville
Photo: Bold Life Magazine

Quesadillas Hit the Spot

Available lunch, dinner, and into the beery late-night hours, Zia’s crispy and tasty quesadillas hit the spot every time. Carefully filled and grilled, the basic house specialty features a Mexican Monterey Jack cheese blend with caramelized onions with guacamole, jalapeño relish, and pepper-flavored crema on the side (it’s a minor feast for just $7.99). For a buck more, they’ll add extra chicken, pastor (marinated pork), carnitas, portabella mushroom, or beef barbacoa.
— T. Ballard Lesemann, Charleston City Paper
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Best of Charleston 2010 - Eating & Drinking Out | Staff Picks

Best Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Pair It with a Margarita

Pair it with a margarita and a post-dinner movie and this torta could anchor a perfect night out in the ‘burbs.
— Stephanie Barna, Charleston City Paper

Best of Charleston 2009 Eating Out | Critics’ Picks

Best Vegetarian Mexican Sandwich: Portabella Torta at Zia Taqueria

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Laid back, Hip and Fun

Zia Taqueria is laid back, hip and fun. When you stop in for lunch or dinner, you not only get quality food that won’t break the bank but also a top-notch bar area. The bar is exactly the type of place most would like to find themselves after a long day.
— Jack Hunter, The Post and Courier

Bodacious Fish Tacos

They’ve got a fully stocked bar, fresh tacos and fillings, and even huge Mexican tortas for the taking. It’s a little slice of Mexico, but in Inglés. Don’t miss the fresh guacamole, the bodacious fish tacos, or the generous margaritas.
— Jeff Allen, Charleston City Paper Dining Guide
 Chicken Yucatán and Beef Barbacoa Enchiladas served Christmas style  Photo:  Kaitlyn Iserman, Charleston City Paper

Chicken Yucatán and Beef Barbacoa Enchiladas served Christmas style

Photo: Kaitlyn Iserman, Charleston City Paper