Name: Rancho Lewis
Address: 1503 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Order: Beef Back Ribs “Half The Cow!” with cowboy slaw, charro beans, and a green chile baked potato (link to menu)
Monk: John Lewis established his barbecue restaurant Lewis Barbecue in 2016 after having made the move as the well-regarded pitmaster at La Barbecue in Austin. As the story goes, John had received rapturous feedback from his food festival stops in Charleston over the years and finally made the leap east in 2015. Since opening his first restaurant in 2016, he has opened a second Lewis Barbecue location in Greenville in August 2022. This capped off a busy year that started with the opening of his upscale Tex-Mex Rancho Lewis in Charleston in April 2022. I think it’s fair to say that it’s worked out well for Lewis in the Holy City.
Rancho Lewis didn’t start out of nothing, however. What was then known as Juan Luis occupied a food stall in the Workshop food hall at the location where Rancho Lewis sits today. While I never made it to Workshop, I did force my family to make a quick detour a few years back to the Juan Luis food trailer that sat outside Lewis Barbecue and served some amazing breakfast tacos.
As soon as I opened the menu, I knew there was one item on the menu that was a must order as soon as I saw it. Behold: the beef back ribs, “half the cow!”
As stated on the menu, this item is a “whole full rack, slow cooked overnight in our mesquite pit.” According to our waitress that night, the $48.95 order comes with somewhere between 6-12 ribs. Thankfully I got on the lower end of that spectrum with 7 since I was the main eater of the dish at our table and was going to be at a music festival for the next two days without access to an over to reheat. The ribs themselves were fantastically tender, more so than my previous experience with beef back ribs. Perfectly smoked, the mesquite wood did not overpower the meat or the tangy sauce. I would for sure order these again with a large group next. The sides themselves were worth sharing as well.
Its pretty well established that green chiles are part of the larger pet project of John Lewis spreading the cuisine from his West Texas upbringing in El Paso. For the past 5 falls he’s even hosted an annual Hatch Chile Festival, with the 6th planned for sometime in October 2023. To that end, I was told by our waitress not to sleep on the green chile baked potato, and I can report back that she did not steer me wrong.
The other sides of cowboy slaw and charro beans were also executed to a high level, and I do have to mention their version of the paloma called “So Far So Bueno” which is a “big clay bowl filled with tequila, citrus juices, sparkling grapefruit.” Not the easiest to drink without spilling, but it added some fun to the meal. And while Rancho Lewis (and its pricing) certainly reflects an upscale Tex-Mex restaurant, we did get to enjoy the half-priced happy hour drink specials available on the patio shared with Edmund’s Oast before being seated.
Rancho Lewis takes the Juan Luis concept to another level and while its certainly more Tex-Mex than Texas barbecue, I can’t recommend it more highly. If you’ve got a Tex-Mex fan in your life (as I do with Mrs. Monk), you owe it to check out a different kind of cuisine at Rancho Lewis in Charleston.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Beef Back Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs