What’s In A Name

Básico, not surprisingly, means basic (no-brainer, right?), but in the sense of essential as opposed to mundane. The word perfectly encapsulates the guiding philosophy of the restaurant: creating authentic Mexican dishes that deliver complex flavors through the use of simple, fresh ingredients.

Bryan & Leslie Lewis

Bryan & Leslie Lewis

Leslie Lewis, mother of Básico owner/operator Bryan Lewis, served as her son’s muse as he developed the concept for the restaurant in collaboration with his twin brother, Justin. Leslie grew up in Monterey, Mexico, where her father established an industrial business just after the Second World War, so she was raised on the dishes that serve as the foundation for Básico’s menu. The family table abounded with authentic Mexican cuisine, and Leslie watched the family’s local cook and learned, so that years later while raising a family of her own she perpetuated the table traditions in the Lewis household.

“We’d never heard of chips and salsa,” Leslie explains. “That is really Tex-Mex.” But Tex-Mex is what most people in Charleston picture when they think of “Mexican” food—everything swimming in that ubiquitous brown mole sauce that too often disguises the essential flavors of the underlying ingredients and reduces each dish to the same flavor profile (it’s also a clever blanket under which to hide less-than-fresh ingredients).

Mexican Street Corn

Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

Mole has its place, but most authentic Mexican dishes take very fresh seasonal ingredients—herbs, produce, and proteins—and combine them simply, without a lot of fuss and muss, so that the essential flavors shine through while performing a complex symphony of flavor. That is the Mexican cuisine that Básico is introducing to Charleston.

One such classic example that Leslie grew up eating is Street Corn, which appears on the Básico menu. It’s a very simple grilled corn on the cob lightly slathered with chile-lime butter and sprinkled with cotija cheese. The secret to the dish’s success is that it starts with local corn and enhances it with the best butter and lime infused with chiles and a few sprinkles of cilantro, both straight from Básico’s kitchen garden—the one you walk right past, beside the silo, when you enter the front door. The dish receives an extra layer of complexity from the sprinkles of cotija, a salty cow’s milk cheese bearing a texture and flavor profile somewhat reminiscent of Parmesan.

In the next post we’ll break down another classic Mexican dish—this time from the coast—inspired by Leslie: Pescado a la Veracruzana. It’s a bit more complicated than the grilled corn, but it adheres to the same philosophy. The result is Mexican like you’ve never imagined it. It’s pure Básico.