Pit master John Lewis drove back and forth from where he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, to his childhood home of El Paso, Texas, at least a dozen times to compile inspiration, decorations, supplies, and purveyors for his new Holy City restaurant, Rancho Lewis. “Once, he came back with nine thousand pounds of mesquite in a truck,” says Patricia Arredondo, also a West Texas native and Lewis’s general manager and partner on the project, which opens in Charleston this weekend.
For Lewis, whose brisket and hot guts sausage have been hugely popular at Lewis Barbecue since it opened down the road in 2016, the hyper-regional, West Texas cuisine is the main draw of the new spot. “It’s John’s interpretation of the food he grew up eating—the menu revolves around corn, chiles, and beans,” Arredondo says. “His grandparents had hatch chile fields in New Mexico.”
Try the Lloyd Lewis special—named for that grandfather and inspired by his favorite meal—or the red chile beef enchiladas that Lewis himself eats about twice a week. Cooks grind local corn from Marsh Hen Mill on Edisto Island on hand-carved stones each day, before running them through a custom tortilla machine that guests can watch through a glass wall. “The free chips that come to your table will be made of corn we ground that morning,” Lewis says.
The restaurant’s design also brings something fresh to Charleston. With the help of B. Berry Interiors and SDCO Partners, Lewis and Arredondo created a warm, rustic-meets-modern oasis in a once-cavernous space previously occupied by a food hall. West Texas elements such as longhorn skulls, chaps, and wagon wheels thrifted from desert flea markets juxtapose the chic bronze-plated bar, giant leather and cedar equipale banquettes made by Clay Imports in Austin, and stylish storybook-like menus and branding. “From the food to the music to what you’re sitting on, it’s all telling a story,” Arredondo says. “This is our love letter to home.”