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.
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.
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.
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.