Best James Island Restaurant 2015

We want to thank the readers of Charleston City Paper for voting Zia Taqueria Best James Island Restaurant and remind ourselves we would not be where we are without our loyal, fun-loving customers and our dedicated, hard-working staff. We are happy to share the accolades and celebrate with our friends at The Pour House, Holy City Sinner, the rest of the award recipients, and our greater Charleston community.

Help Save a Life

Please join us for the 12th annual Dining Out For Life® benefit at Zia Taqueria Asheville on Thursday, April 24th, 2014 and 20% of your bill will be donated to the Western North Carolina AIDS Project. Since 1986 WNCAP has worked to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in our region, while improving the lives of individuals and families living with AIDS.

Asheville is one of 60 cities across the country raising funds for a local AIDS Service Agency making Dining Out for Life® the single largest AIDS Fundraiser in the country. Last year over $157,000 was raised locally to fund the mission of WNCAP and helped us expand our services to 18 counties of WNC.

This year, all you have to do to support a great cause is simply go out to eat! Enjoy a great meal and help save a life.

Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) Zia Taqueria Asheville 521 Haywood Rd Asheville, North Carolina 28806 (828) 575-9393

Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP)

Zia Taqueria Asheville

521 Haywood Rd

Asheville, North Carolina 28806

(828) 575-9393

Culinary Connection

Asheville is turning its culinary connection to Charleston, S.C., into a boon for Western North Carolina food.

Not only do local chefs say they share ideas with Charleston culinarians on a regular basis, but Charleston eateries also look to Asheville for expansion — and vice versa.
— Mackensy Lunsford, Citizen-Times

Get the Al Pastor

Two weeks later at Zia Taqueria I contemplate the menu for a while before remembering our conversation. “Get the al pastor,” Szlam had recommended. “Get it with the flour tortillas — sour cream and guacamole only.”

And he’s right. A dish I usually treat with rustic complements, girding a corn tortilla with piquant red sauces and sharp raw onion takes on a luscious, and quite subtle, expression of Zia’s al pastor, the sharp, almost citrusy tang of the shaved pork allowed to take a larger role.
— Jeff Allen, Charleston City Paper
“Former chef David Szlam isn't afraid to tinker with the toppings on his al pastor at Zia” Photo: Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

“Former chef David Szlam isn't afraid to tinker with the toppings on his al pastor at Zia”

Photo: Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

Green Hatch Chile

The green Hatch chile packs a unique flavor profile, and West Asheville’s Zia Taqueria is one of only about 20 restaurants in the country where diners can find it.

Founder Kevin Grant (who runs the original Zia Taqueria in Charleston, S.C.) calls the green Hatch “without a doubt the most flavorful chili pepper out there.” His partner, Robert Tipsword, maintains the Asheville location. The two were lucky enough to establish a relationship with an authentic green Hatch chile supplier in New Mexico and have been consistently using the fiery fruit in dishes since mid-November. So far, notes Tipsword, the response from customers has been great.
— Sharon Bell, Mountain Xpress
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Right now, the green Hatch chile stew is the restaurant’s main feature. A unique blend of spices, potatoes, corn and carrots (available either with pork or vegan), the stew is just the right kind of spicy to be a seasonal favorite. “The recipe isn’t all that hard,” says Grant. “The hard part is getting the chile. It’s the only one with this kind of flavor. The stew is a way for people to understand there’s a lot more than just heat in a chili.”

“It’s almost an unprecedented taste for Asheville and the Eastern Seaboard,” adds Tipsword, who’s excited about playing with new green Hatch chile recipes and flavors that will soon be featured on Zia’s menu.

Tipsword is also looking forward to creating a community-driven hub of dining, with specialty cocktails and entertainment. With one successful year under his belt, he hopes to begin hosting sports events, movies, bands and more at his prime location. “We’re fortunate to be on Haywood with parking surrounded by fences. I feel like with this property comes a sense of responsibility to do something that involves the community, and that’s definitely something we’re looking forward to.”

Tipsword’s passion for community involvement doesn’t end at Asheville’s city limits. New Mexico’s nearly 350 days of sunlight, he explains, have made chili peppers a primary export, and he says, “with Asheville’s growing economy, we should support and buy this world-renowned American product.” In 1992, he notes, 40,000 acres in the state were devoted to growing [chiles]; by 2010, that number had dropped to 9,500. “Unfortunately, 82 percent of chili peppers bought are from other countries now, and there’s no telling how they preserve it, package it — and what some restaurants put on it to make it look good again”
— Sharon Bell, Mountain Xpress

Sweet-and-Sour Fire

While some City Paper staffers swear by Zia Taqueria’s torta — the bread’s killer — the beef barbacoa plate is not to be missed. The beef is tender, spicy, surprisingly tangy, and comes in a massive mound. If you play your cards right and scarf down more than your fair share of chips and salsa, you can easily have enough leftover for lunch the next day. That task will be made all the easier thanks to your choice of two sides; we recommend the borracho beans (pinto beans simmered with garlic, onion, carnitas, tomato, cilantro and Negra Modelo) and the Mexi-slaw (cabbage, green onion, and cilantro with a tangy dressing). And if you want to experience some heat, you’re going to love the pickled jalapeño relish on the side. It’s like sweet-and-sour fire.
— Chris Haire, Charleston City Paper
“Zia’s tremendous platter of spicy and tender barbacoa” Photo: Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

“Zia’s tremendous platter of spicy and tender barbacoa”

Photo: Jonathan Boncek,  Charleston City Paper

We Have Many Favorites

We have many favorites at this great little taqueria. Like the tart margaritas that come served in tall pint glasses. Like the fish tacos that you can get for $2.50 on Mondays. Like the spicy verde sauce, which we could drink by the bucket, and the fantastic chicken enchiladas, or the big, messy tortas, and the generous platos (they could easily feed a small family). There’s not a bad thing on the entire menu, and we should know. We’ve eaten pretty much everything on it.
— Stephanie Barna, Dish (Summer 2013)
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A Single Word: Outstanding

Really, a critique could be accomplished in a single word: outstanding. When it comes to Tex-Mex, words like ‘fresh,’ ‘traditional,’ and ‘authentic’ are tossed around like so many jumping beans. Once in a while, the descriptions are actually true.
Here, it’s practically a religion. Even the garnishes are given solemn attention: the jalapeño relish is a simpatico blend of sweet and spicy, starred with whole garlic cloves, and the standard pico de gallo is anything but. Its bright tang, as with so many other items on Zia Taqueria’s menu, begs the query: ‘What is that I’m tasting?’
Flavors are delicate. They revolve; they surprise. The owners’ search for rare spices and peppers succeeds many times over, from the savory dry rub on the Beef Barbacoa plate to the achiote-guajillo glaze on the Pastor (pork with pineapple) tacos.
— Blaise Covert, Bold Life
Robert and Kevin at Zia Asheville Photo: Bold Life Magazine

Robert and Kevin at Zia Asheville
Photo: Bold Life Magazine

Barbacoa Nachos

Grant recommends the barbacoa nachos, which come with with jalapeño relish, guacamole and crema, or the portobello mushroom tacos with avocado and black beans.

Other menu highlights include entree-sized salads, tacos al pastor (complete with their authentic pineapple trappings) and an array of margaritas from house-made sour mix, a mixture of fresh-squeezed lemon, lime and orange juices.
— Emily Patrick, Mountain Xpress
“It’s a menu that Grant knows well. He owns another location of Zia Taqueria in Charleston. (He co-owns the Asheville eatery with Robert Tipsword, who lives here in town.)” Kevin and Robert Photo: Mountain Xpress

“It’s a menu that Grant knows well. He owns another location of Zia Taqueria in Charleston. (He co-owns the Asheville eatery with Robert Tipsword, who lives here in town.)”

Kevin and Robert

Photo: Mountain Xpress

Quesadillas Hit the Spot

Available lunch, dinner, and into the beery late-night hours, Zia’s crispy and tasty quesadillas hit the spot every time. Carefully filled and grilled, the basic house specialty features a Mexican Monterey Jack cheese blend with caramelized onions with guacamole, jalapeño relish, and pepper-flavored crema on the side (it’s a minor feast for just $7.99). For a buck more, they’ll add extra chicken, pastor (marinated pork), carnitas, portabella mushroom, or beef barbacoa.
— T. Ballard Lesemann, Charleston City Paper
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Best of Charleston 2010 - Eating & Drinking Out | Staff Picks

Best Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Franti and Spearhead Love

Nancy Griffith from The Bridge at 105.5 was traveling from the radio station after an interview and recommended that they pick up some food before heading back out to the Coliseum. They ordered some food to go and ate some chips and salsa while waiting. Minding my own business and concentrating on my own lunch, I was not immediately aware that Michael Franti was at Zia. After coming to my senses, I got the nerve to go outside and introduce myself. We talked about the first Spearhead show I went to in 1998 at the One Love Music Festival in Crested Butte, CO. I was surprised to realize that concert was over 12 years ago. He said he loved the salsa and complimented how wonderful the place looked. They got their to-go order, I got a quick photograph, and off they went.

 

They really enjoyed their food and the band manager contacted me to see if I would be interested in trading some tacos for some tickets and backstage passes to hang out with Franti and Spearhead after their show. Full of excitement, we made all the arrangements and a serious taco party was set in motion for the rest of the band and John Mayer. The show was great, with seats just to the right of the stage: Super high-energy with about four or five new tracks.

After their set we headed backstage, called up the manager Catherine, and she took us to meet the rest of band. Everyone was excited about the food and in high spirits. The acoustic version of  “Hey Hey Hey” in the dressing room was the most intimate musical experience I have ever had, it’s wonderful to know it was captured and placed up on You Tube.

 

From show #4 in Charleston, SC

(Zia shout-out around 4:15)

 

Amazing experience. What else is there to say?

Pair It with a Margarita

Pair it with a margarita and a post-dinner movie and this torta could anchor a perfect night out in the ‘burbs.
— Stephanie Barna, Charleston City Paper

Best of Charleston 2009 Eating Out | Critics’ Picks

Best Vegetarian Mexican Sandwich: Portabella Torta at Zia Taqueria

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Learn Every Position

Mastermind of Zia Taqueria passionate about the joys of Mexican food

Kevin Grant has been interested in owning his own restaurant since he was a little kid.

He thought it important to start from the bottom and learn every position inside a restaurant. He attended the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management at the University of Houston, graduating in 2003.
— Angel Powell, Post and Courier

Laid back, Hip and Fun

Zia Taqueria is laid back, hip and fun. When you stop in for lunch or dinner, you not only get quality food that won’t break the bank but also a top-notch bar area. The bar is exactly the type of place most would like to find themselves after a long day.
— Jack Hunter, The Post and Courier