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The El Paso-influenced dining room at Rancho Lewis.
Mike Ledford

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Rancho Lewis Brings a Taste of the West Texas/New Mexico Border to Charleston

Famed pitmaster John Lewis recreates a piece of home in the Lowcountry

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

After much anticipation, pitmaster John Lewis (of Lewis Barbecue fame) opens his second Lowcountry restaurant, Rancho Lewis, this Saturday, April 16, at 1503 King Street. Everything about Rancho Lewis is an ode to Lewis’ childhood growing up in West Texas near the Mexico and New Mexico borders.

The interiors of 1503 King Street are completely unrecognizable to anyone who previously visited fancy food court Workshop. Gone is the wide-open space and cafeteria-like seating — in its place now sits an explosion of El Paso, Texas, decor. Lewis worked with Betsy Berry of B. Berry Interiors for the dining room at Lewis Barbecue, and brought her back for Rancho Lewis. It’s warm and cozy and completely covered in Texas memorabilia — including a literal truckload (Lewis drove them up to South Carolina himself) of dried hatch chilies at the entrance of the restaurant.

A host stand with strands of chilies strung up.
Custom six-foot chile ristras serve as the backdrop to the host stand.
Mike Ledford
Booth seating with steer skulls on the wall.
Lewis collected Longhorn skulls to hang on the walls, as well as family photos.
Mike Ledford
Traditional leather chair from Mexico.
Rancho Lewis brought in equipales from Mexico for seating.
Mike Ledford

The walls are covered in Longhorn skulls, charro hats, vintage fruit-picking baskets, and old Lewis family photos (including John’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather). The dividers throughout the dining room are made of wagon wheels — every touch is quintessential the borderlands where Lewis grew up.

Another core component of the dining room is the massive bar. Lewis thinks it might be the longest restaurant bar in Charleston with 38 seats. He also thinks they might have the coldest margarita in town with each cocktail being machine shaken with a Japanese milk tea shaker when ordered.

Long bar covered in orange and white tile.
The bar at Rancho Lewis can seat 38 customers.
Mike Ledford
Brown, orange, and white dining room.
The dining room reflects the colors of el Paso.
Mike Ledford
Orange and white tiles.
Tiles imported from Juarez serve as the backdrop for the bar.
Mike Ledford

Another key component of the dining room is the La Tortilleria room with the giant tortilla machine custom made for Rancho Lewis in California. Lewis and chef Philip Powers flew out to the West Coast for a week to learn how to use it. All the tortillas are made here, including the ones for the free chips given to each table. Bonus fact: there’s two fresh salsa bars for customers with sauces made in house daily — the team even makes their own hot sauce.

Wall and window reading La Tortilleria.
Customers can see into the La Tortilleria.
Mike Ledford
A buffet-style salsa bar.
Future home of one of the salsa bars.
Mike Ledford
Massive tortilla machine.
Lewis brought the tortilla machine in from California.
Mike Ledford

Like the interiors, the menu pulls influences from West Texas, Chihuahua, Mexico, and New Mexico. This is the food Lewis and his family grew up eating. Ingredients like chilies, pinto beans, and mesquite wood-cook beef are featured heavily. Lewis is even dedicated to driving up the wood himself from Texas. Classic fare like enchiladas, burritos, and tacos are there, along with combo plates dedicated to items favorited by Lewis’ grandparents Cora and Lloyd.

The dinner menu at Rancho Lewis.
Mike Ledford
Outdoor seating at Rancho Lewis, surrounded by greenery.
Mike Ledford

First Look at Charleston’s Upcoming Fancy Food Court
Rancho Lewis [Official]
All Lewis Barbecue Coverage
B. Berry Interiors [Official]
Behold the Crisp Interiors at Lewis Barbecue

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