The City Magazine Since 1975

Minero

March 2015
Minero
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Minero opened to more buzz than a tattoo parlor, and surely more ink. Five months in, it’d be a safe bet for chef/partner Sean Brock to add a tat referencing the quirky cantina (the Mexican wrestling mask that graces the eatery’s coasters, perhaps?) to the already colorful canvas of his flesh. Like the art on his arms, Minero is here to stay.  

Named after the Spanish word for miners, who coined the word “taco” for the hand-rolled explosives used for creating tunnels, Minero is Mexican fare done Brock’s way. It is studied simplicity combined with provenance, creativity, reinvention, and just plain fun. In other words, it’s culinary dynamite.

For a celebrated chef associated primarily with fine dining, creating a casual concept around a cuisine that’s so incredibly visceral and familiar is a risky proposition. Anyone who has ever had an authentic taco or sampled Mexican street food is bound to take a potshot at you on social media. It takes big aquacates.

Minero is tucked into a space a few doors down from McCrady’s. (In the past, the sister spot, where Brock also serves as chef/partner, used the building for events and overflow.) Upon arrival, the host politely gives you a table number that corresponds to light-up Mexican tiles hanging on the wall. It’s not difficult to spot your number in the small shotgun-style dining room where wood finishes complement walls of exposed brick. Classic rock completes the festive ambiance—think Tom Petty, The Eagles, and The Rolling Stones.

El Yucateco and Valentina hot sauces grace each tabletop, holding the menus between them. Silverware and paper napkins are cleverly stored in a drawer beneath. Service is smart: you can get a taco and beer and be one and done, or linger over multiple courses with a side of building history, origin of ingredients, or Brock news provided by the well-trained waitstaff.

It’s no surprise that the chef’s obsession with ingredients manifests itself in the menu. The Minero team tasted 40 types of corn before deciding on two—a Masienda heirloom  variety from Mexico and a pick grown locally by Geechie Boy Mills—to provide the kernels that are painstakingly transformed first into dough, then tortillas. All ingredients and their preparation benefit from this same attention to detail.  

Freshly fried tortilla chips make a good start, arriving warm and salty within a festive Mexican tortilla warmer. Dip them in cool, chunky guacamole prepared using perfectly ripe avocados garnished with slivered radish and cilantro. Or opt for a trio of salsas, which include verde with tomatillo, rojo with arbol chiles, and an addictive riff on pumpkin-seed salsa made with local benne seeds. All are packed with flavor while restrained in heat.

The red posole soup, with its deep and rich spiced broth bathing tender bits of chicken and soft local hominy, makes a good follow-up, served with soulful fried pork skins and a thick tostada. The spoon is too small to reach the bottom of the bowl; rather than let a drop go to waste, pick it up and drink from it.

Moving down the menu, the small plates continue to shine. The charcoal-blackened chicken wings, a finger-licking firestorm of smoke, heat, and meat, are placed in a paper sack, doused with Valentina, and shaken tableside before they’re served in a deep bowl.

Handily, the sack is left for the bones. Queso fundido comes hot, thick, and studded with chorizo and roasted poblano peppers—hardly the pallid white sauce that comes in a typical Mexican-American restaurant. Carve out a chunk and spread it on the warm tortillas provided.

Tacos are built atop freshly griddled tortillas. The fried catfish with pickled green tomato tartar, crisp cabbage, and thinly sliced red onion; the al pastor’s marinated and grilled pork with sweet pineapple and avocado; grilled chicken with young mango, crumbled cotija cheese, and pickled onion; and the tender charcoal-tinged grilled steak with heirloom peppers, pickled vegetables, and queso fresco are standouts.

All can be washed down with a creative collection of cocktails featuring tequila and mescal, crafted behind Minero’s well-stocked six-seat bar. The El Satanico, a slushy blend of white tequila, yellow Chartreuse, a splash of pineapple vinegar, and tepache, is a lusciously cool foil for the full-flavored food. You may also order from an impressive list of mescals, tequilas, and bourbons—and of course, there are the requisite Mexican beers.

To end, the warm churros, dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with warm Mexican chocolate ganache for dipping, will provoke a final “Madre mia!” and ensure a speedy return.

The draw: Standout Mexican street food produced with heirloom ingredients and sold at taco-stand prices
The drawback: The plastic glasses
Don’t miss: Red posole
Price: $3.50-$24

155 East Bay St.
(843) 789-2241
www.minerorestaurant.com

 

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