NOTE: This restaurant is closed.
As much as I despise the old municipal parking garage on McFarland Street, it is worth braving the rickety see-through stairs to get the fish tacos at Cilantro’s.
Unfortunately for Tricky Fish, we had already experienced the delightful fish tacos at Cilantro’s before trying their breaded, fried, nuggets of catfish combined with a smidgen of crème fraiche. They didn’t stand a chance against the heaping mounds of flaky white fish, various veggies and homemade sauces and salsas at Virgil’s establishment. I hope you aren’t disappointed that I have kind of ruined the suspense of this review with my premature gushing. I’ll back up now and fill you in on the whole experience.
The restaurant is small and can get cramped when hoards of Charleston Catholic students are in there during my lunch hour. It kind of bugs me because not only was I forbidden from leaving my high school campus, but I never had money to eat out with my friends. As a grown-up, it bugs me because I have to be back at work in an hour and I don’t have time to wait on all the school children to leave so I can have a seat. Why aren’t they at school, sitting on a bench, eating a pb&j they pulled from a brown paper bag and washing it down with a little carton of white milk?
You order and select the toppings as you walk through the line toward the cashier and then you can fill your cup and grab the necessary utensils on your way to a seat. Try to avoid the “Trash Tables” – the two tables that are right beside the garbage cans where you will be dumping your refuse after you eat. Be careful not to throw away the red plastic basket like I did. Sorry about that.
There are three choices: a large burrito ($6.50), three tacos ($6.25), or shirtless ($6.00). Fill your selection with fish, chicken, beef, pork, grilled veggies or tofu. You may be thinking to yourself, “Hmmm…I really like pork, but I’d love to try the fish and the grilled veggies sound intriguing…can I get one taco with each?” You can, but there is an additional charge.
Fill ‘er up with rice, black beans and the traditional veggies. Then you can choose a homemade sauce and a homemade salsa to top off your creation. Chips and salsa are available, but for an extra $2.25. Sodas are a very reasonable $1.25 for a 16 oz. refillable cup to hold your Coca Cola product.
Warning: the red plastic basket on top of the plastic tray is very slippery! They should put a napkin underneath the basket to keep it from sliding around. It is a balancing act to steady the food on the tray, fill your drink and pick up napkins, etc. all in one trip. If you are clutzy, I would recommend placing your tray on the table and then coming back for all the rest.
I love the fish tacos – I always order them with mango salsa and jalapenos. You really get a lot of food in the three larger-than-Old El Paso-taco shells. I never eat the shells, though. I pack my own low-carb tortillas and transfer the filling into them. I would give a lower rating if I ate their shells because they taste stale every time I have been there. I wonder if they pull them out of the packaging and serve them without crisping them in the oven like you would at home with the Old El Paso’s. Virgil, if that’s what you’re doing…dude, heat the shells. They are ruining an otherwise perfect dish. I’ll be shocked if people haven’t been complaining about the shells.
Placed on my soft, high-fiber, low-carb tortillas, however, the fish in combination with the spicy jalapeno and the sweet mango is absolutely delicious. I would like it even better with a bit less fish and a bit more of the toppings – a bite of fish alone is rather bland. But the toppings add all the flavor and spice you need. And the fresh cilantro…can I have double? It’s one of my favorite herbs!
If I could walk to Cilantro’s, I’d be there once every two weeks to enjoy these masterful seafood concoctions. It’s quite a bit of trouble to drive there, pay to park, navigate the metal stairs and make it through all the traffic lights. I can’t wait too long in between visits, though or I start dreaming about mango salsa…
FOUR FORKS for Cilantro’s. Fresh, healthy and reasonably priced.
I’m sure some of you are wondering- who is this girl? Well, I have been MIA from Fork You for a few months- but I am back now. If you look back at the frequency of my reviews, I am not as post happy as the other Fork you-ers.. but I do like to put my two cents in every week or so. Now…to my review.
During my maternity leave, I rarely visited any dining establishment other than McDonalds and Wendys- as they are the only restaurants close enough to me where I can get back to my house with hot food. So, since I have been back, I have been pushing to go to all the restaurants that I missed and order my favorites before I begin my quest to lose those last 10 “baby” pounds. I was thrilled when someone mentioned Cilantros.
We left at a decent time (which is before noon for me) and while we were driving there, I spotted a lot of Charleston Catholic kids walking on the sidewalks- Several bad thoughts went through my head- “OH, NO! I forgot, it was the first day of school and I bet the place is packed. I bet we won’t find a seat and if we do, I bet it is by the trash cans and I really hate sitting by the trash cans.” However, I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in and there was no one in line and only 2 tables taken (we arrived about 11:55). I ran up to the counter and ordered (this, by the way, is very bizarre behavior for me. Usually there are 2 or 3 items that I want to order and I can never make a decision and I wait and go last…anyway) I got the chicken burrito with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and here is where I got hung up. I couldn’t remember what sauce I liked: the cucumber one looked liked what I remembered but I am not a huge cucumber fan and I can’t imagine I would have gotten it. So, I asked the sauce lady- she recommended the chipotle sauce. I asked if it was spicy (this is always a concern of mine- I do not like spicy food) She said that it was a little tangy, but not too bad. So I decided to try it. I paid, filled up my cup up with regular soda, got my knife and fork and was off to sit at a table. As I sat down and started cutting my burrito, I noticed that the place was filling up. I’m glad we arrived when we did!
As soon as I cut into it, the fillings started falling out (I shoved it back in real quick so Susan could take a picture)- They stuff this thing so full of fillings that they can barely wrap it up. ***WARNING- Do not try to bite into this burrito- It WILL make a mess. You must use a fork and knife- Unless you want burrito drippings all over your face and/or clothing. *** The pulled chicken is very moist and I feel that they put a generous amount on your burrito. In fact, they really aren’t skimpy on any of their fillings. My only complaint (and it has happened a few times in previous visits) is that the sour cream and guacamole were slammed into one end of the burrito. This is a real problem for me as I am a strong advocate of even food distribution. I was able to correct this by cutting off the saturated end of the burrito and allocating it throughout the rest of the burrito- but I shouldn’t have to do this (And this is another reason to use a knife and fork). Thus, tip for the burrito wrapper-Please pay attention to the way you roll the burrito so the eater can enjoy all fillings throughout the entire meal. This ensures that I do not have to choke down a dry burrito! Also, the chipotle sauce was tasted great but still a little spicy for me. Next time, I think I will try the green chili sauce- I believe the server said it was mild and creamy.
This place can be a little intimidating the first time you go. It seems like there is an endless amount of toppings, sauces, and salsas to choose from- especially for a food novice like me. Everything looks so good you just keep piling stuff on. At the end of the line you look at what you created and think, “I wonder if this is going to be any good”. Well, every combination I have come up with has been pretty tasty. Oh, and, I just love the steamy burrito shell.
I rate Cilantros: FOUR FORKS!