Colleton Food | New local eatery offers an authentic taste of Latin American specialties
by The Press and Standard | February 8, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: February 6, 2019 at 9:30 am
I’ve visited Walterboro’s newest Latin American eatery, La Jarocha Carniceria y Taqueria, three times in just as many weeks. What keeps me coming back are the shockingly authentic flavors found within, delivered with pride in a family-like atmosphere.
I’m a self-proclaimed culinary explorer who spent a considerable amount of time criss-crossing the U.S. and Canada, unearthing the most authentic cuisine the world has to offer. Whether it was Korean delights in New Jersey, down-home cooking in the South or Latin American fare in Texas and California, authenticity was always of paramount concern. I’m a firm believer that culture begins and ends with what hits the table.
La Jarocha embodies these elements and more. Upon entering you’ll notice the small tienda, or store area, selling an array of Latin goods including sweets, spices, drinks and dried chiles. Just beyond is the carniceria, or meat market portion of the space. In Latin America, the diets are shaped upon the consumption of meat proteins, and therefore thrust to the forefront.
At La Jarocha, you’ll see items typically found at a Latin meat market. Though smaller than average, La Jarocha carries the essentials such as chorizo (spicy sausage), pre-marinated carne asada (beef), al pastor (pork), pollo (chicken), and the crown jewel of Latin meats, arrachera (hanger steak). Don’t balk at the price of arrachera until you’ve purchased some and prepared it. You’ll be back for more.
Just having a true carniceria in Walterboro would be exciting enough, but the addition of a restaurant is what makes it stand out. Conversations with the butcher/chef have revealed that he hails from Sinaloa, a coastal Mexican state known for seafood, agriculture, and ranching. This influence is seen across the menu. For all intents and purposes, Sinaloa is Mexico’s answer to the Carolinas.
True beachside-style shrimp tacos with little more than the chopped crustaceans topped with diced vegetables aren’t an easy find. La Jarocha pulls them off quite well ($2.50/ea.) They are well seasoned and juicy, wrapped in two warm corn tortillas. The secret to its success is in the salsas that are brought to the table. Choose from rojo (red chile), verde (green tomatillo), or guacamole (avocado based).
While I love the burn of rojo and verde on my tacos, the guacamole salsa at La Jarocha is the standout. I almost bathed in it. These sauces are made in-house. I almost broke into a dance of glee when I saw two ladies making sauce by hand in the kitchen. If you find one you can’t live without, they are packed for takeout at the meat counter.
Also sampled was the birria de borrego, or lamb stew, only available on weekends ($11.99). This is a painstaking dish, which requires hours of preparation. La Jarocha’s version is bursting with flavors both from the meat and liquid in which it resides. It truly warms the bones on a cool Carolina winter day. Served with rice, refried beans made the correct way (with lard!), salad with fresh avocado, and piping hot tortillas, it makes for a perfect lazy Sunday brunch.
Other menu highlights include a universe of street tacos ($1.75-2.50), fried plantains with Mexican cream and cheese ($3.99), giant burritos ($9.99), a shrimp cocktail that rivals ones found in downtown Charleston ($12.99), and menudo, a tripe-filled soup that is a secret handshake among hangover cure aficionados ($10.99).
Do yourself a favor, and head to La Jarocha Carniceria and Taqueria for a world of flavor and authenticity brought right here to Colleton County.
La Jarocha Carniceria y Taqueria
314 Ivanhoe Dr., Walterboro
(Josh Taylor is a culinary anthropologist who has found a forever home in Colleton County. When not lurking at the farmer’s market, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)