Chef Alex Yellan has always been drawn to Mexican food — he grew up in Arizona, close in proximity to Mexico, studied abroad in Mexico, and his first cooking job was at a Mexican restaurant. Yellan went on to help open Empellon Taqueria in New York, landed at Minero in Charleston, and now he has opened his own ode to Mexican cuisine with Colectivo (2901 Maybank Highway) on Johns Island.
Yellan, along with business partners Chad and Holly Dennis, and sous chefs Matt Horton and Nick Newman, opened the restaurant on Wednesday, September 6. The menu is extensive and it’s meant to be shared. “We want people to experiment,” says Yellan, “We want people to be able to try new things. We want to be a little bit left of center on most things — whether that’s music, drinks, or food.”
On the menu, there are the familiar Mexican-American starters, like tostadas with guacamole, but there’s also birria bone marrow sopes and “loco” fruit with chamoy and watermelon Sour Patch Kids. Being near the coast, Yellan wanted to include a selection of sea creatures. “I don’t think most people go into a Mexican restaurant and expect to get raw seafood,” he says, “but the mariscos are meant to counterbalance the giant portions of very rich meats that we’re also focusing on.”
Those large platters of carnitas ribs, adobo lamb, and cochinita pibil are meant to be shared and heaped onto corn or flour tortillas with accouterments like pickled onions, salsa, and cilantro. Yellan compares Colectivo’s style of dinner to eating in a family home in Mexico, where everyone is in charge of building their own taco to their liking. “The ideal situation is everyone’s getting meats and sharing them and trying all the sauces,” says Yellan.
Like the food, the restaurant design is a mix of modern and traditional with Mexican folk art on one wall and a fun neon sign in the shape of a corn cob on another wall. Take a look around here before visiting. Colectivo is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.