• Steven Keith

You’ll go loco over the new Coco’s Kitchen + Cafe downtown

Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but the hot new breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Charleston is no joke. I’m crazy about the food, décor and vibe there – and seriously can’t get enough of it.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl from Coco's

I’ve gone loco for Coco’s!


Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but the hot new breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Charleston is no joke. I’m crazy about the food, décor and vibe there – and seriously can’t get enough of it.


With original Lola’s founder Cary Charbonniez owning the place and hot-shot chef Jesse Lyons running the kitchen, Coco’s Kitchen + Café near the corner of Hale and Lee streets has been an instant hit on the downtown early-day dining scene since its COVID-delayed opening earlier this summer.


Thai Peanut Shrimp Bowl from Coco's

I’ve already been nearly a half-dozen times and every visit has been stellar. A mini (but mighty) menu features an occasionally rotating selection of fresh, healthy, flavorful smoothies, breakfast items, wraps, salads, bowls and more bursting with flavor.


The options are so enticing you’’ll want to try them all — and I’m well on my way to doing just that.


The restaurant also creates an ultra-cool atmosphere to enjoy said great food with bold art, retro decor, flowers and various wood, steel and tile accents completing the look.


Like the flavors featured in the plates it creates, Coco’s visual appeal also packs a punch. You order at the counter, then take a seat to take it all in while your food is freshly prepared.


Egg & Tortilla Roll from Coco's

On my first visit I went straight for what has quickly become perhaps the restaurant’s signature dish, the best-selling Vietnamese Noodle Bowl featuring zesty lemongrass turkey patties and rice noodles with carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper and peanuts in a sesame lime dressing that zings!


I’ve also enjoyed the Thai Peanut Shrimp Bowl with coconut lime rice, pickled peppers and panko-crusted shrimp in peanut sauce. (I just wanted more peanut sauce because it was so, so good.)


The next lunch options up for me will be the Moroccan-spiced grilled chicken wrap with lettuce, tomato and yogurt sauce in a toasted tortilla with a side of Mediterranean couscous; the Spinach & Chickpea Fritter Bowl with feta, cucumber salad, couscous and roasted tomatoes with lemon tahini dressing; or the refreshing watermelon, feta and spiced-almond salad tossed with fresh greens and balsamic vinaigrette.


For breakfast, I’ve gone on the lighter side with the Coco Chia Breakfast Pudding topped with fresh berries, banana, a sprinkle of granola and coconut whip, as well as the Coco Banana Smoothie blended with spinach, cacao powder and honey. (No, you don’t taste the spinach. Yes, it’s delicious.)


Coco Chia Breakfast Pudding from Coco's

And I’ve also gone a bit “heavier” in the morning with the awesome Egg & Tortilla Roll stuffed with crumbled turkey chorizo, spinach, scallions, cheddar, fresh lime, sour cream and (sometimes, if you’re lucky) tater tots. I was lucky.


The only complaint I’ve heard about Coco’s is that the menu is very small, which is valid. But new options rotate onto the list from time to time and I haven’t tried anything yet I wouldn’t love to have again and again.


Make plans for a breakfast or lunch date to check it out, or place and pickup your order to go. You’re gonna love it either way.


  • IF YOU GO: Coco’s Kitchen & Café at 233 Hale. St. in Charleston is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday for dine-in, takeout or curbside pickup. For more information, call 304-343-6420, visit www.cocoswv.com or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.


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As you’re reading this, I’m likely still recovering from the food coma I expected to follow after last night’s special Copper Cane Wine Pairing Dinner at Ichiban on Capitol Street in downtown Charleston.


Tuna Belly Sashimi from Ichiban

My long-term love affair with Ichiban has been well-documented, and after stopping in for dinner again last Friday night I scored a coveted seat at this week’s dinner. That culinary surprise became all the more exciting as I sipped my saki and sampled a few “Chef Evan” (Wilson) specials as he teased some of the options he would be preparing during this week’s dinner.


He was especially excited, he said, because events like this give him a chance to branch out beyond the Asian sushi he usually serves. It’s an opportunity he seemed to be seizing with gusto.


Tuesday night’s menu featured chicken roulade with roasted red pepper, shiso and kabocha squash puree; seared albacore tuna salad with wilted greens and grapefruit ponzu; wild herb-roasted pork tenderloin with Japanese mushroom risotto and five-spice pepper jus (for the win!); and tiramisu with wild berry compote and cocoa.


Was it as good as it sounds? Check out my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages this week for all the details – and photos!


• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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