The Daily Meal

17 April 2011

Tonight's Episode: Don't Worry, Eat Chorizo

         Tune into the Travel Channel or Food Network, and if you're lucky, they might have a trip to Charleston for you to enjoy. It doesn't matter what show, what host, what schtick they are doing, there is one stop that seems inevitable. At some point the host will be in front of that venerable restaurant on the corner of Rutledge and Cannon, Hominy Grill. Just once I would love it if that celeb chef, home grown cook, or whatever vacuum headed mouth-piece with a microphone is talking would take the time to turn around and point the camera at the old filling station across the street. Inside is the Caribbean inspired restaurant known as Fuel Cantina.
         The 50's era fueling station facade is complimented inside with a blend of classic filling station signage and equipment. The space itself is small but has a large outside area. Depending on the time of day you arrive, the bar/dining area can be VERY loud, so don't expect a quiet evening.
        
          For starters we began with the anguillan beef kabobs ($6.50). These turned out to be three medium sized tenders of beautifully grilled beef, served with a cilantro mojo. While I would have loved a spicy sauce to go with the kabobs, they were very satisfying. As a second app, we went with the chips and queso carne ($6.50), which is a blend of fried and grilled soft tortillas with a house made chorizo queso. While the flavor was fantastic and the grilled soft tortillas especially so, the portion size is rather small considering the price.

         For a main The Girl decided on the BBQ buffalo burger ($13.95) with grilled bison, a mango ketchup, and french fries. I went another direction, choosing the House made chorizo burger ($13.95) with green chili horseradish aioli, smoked tomato ketchup, and shoestring potatoes, served with plantain fritters. Her burger was juicy and smoky, the mango ketchup adding just the right hint of sweetness. The chorizo burger was a damn good burger. The fat and hint of spice just give you an incredible mouthful, bite after bite. The size and heft of these burgers lessen the pain of the price tag and leave you feeling full. Not too full for those plantain fritters, though. Those were heavenly, especially the end bits. These are halved plantains deep fried to give a nice crunch with their banana like sweetness. I could polish off an entire plate in three minutes flat.
              The other reason I like Fuel as much as I do is the outdoor patio area. Come in, order a mojito, and enjoy a beautiful outdoor area. The crowd you will find there is very reflective of a transitional area, college kids and older families, all enjoying service from a young and energetic staff.
             I wouldn't say everything is perfect at Fuel. The service, while friendly, can be slow. If you come in too late at night, especially on the weekend, the place will be filled with college kids - loud, drunk college kids. I can not stress enough that inside can be VERY loud. The final complaint would be the rather limited parking. I have a great secret fix for that, but I can't tell you. Wouldn't be a secret anymore.
           Overall I have to say I have enjoyed my trips to Fuel. The relaxed atmosphere, good drinks, and great food more than compensate for any negatives. As the days get warmer, why not consider a trip to the Caribbean?

The Scores:
Ambiance: 2/5
Service: 3/5
Food: 8/10
Value: 3/5
Overal: 16 out of 25, An excellent taste of the Caribbean at import prices.
Fuel Cantina on Urbanspoon

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