Wellington chef Clay Carnes has artfully fielded the “When will you be open for lunch?” question nearly every day since opening his new restaurant just a few months ago.
Cholo Soy Cocina’s locally grown produce and top-quality meats and ingredients made an instant impression on South Floridians seeking the perfect nighttime food fix. So Carnes was ready this week to give diners what they’d been waiting for when Cholo opened for lunch beginning Monday. Serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, the new West Palm Beach hotspot will also offer call-ahead ordering for those with shorter lunch breaks.
Carnes, the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen: Time Warp Tournament champion, is fresh from slinging his gourmet tacos to hungry Canadians and international foodies at “Devour: The Food Film Fest” in Nova Scotia. The award-winning chef is ready to give his fans the culinary fare they’ve been craving.
“We had an amazing time up there, but we’re excited to be back cooking again in the warm sunshine, giving diners the taco fix they are craving,” Carnes said.
The Latin slang term “cholo” captures the open-ended feel of Carnes’ newest restaurant with a decidedly authentic and “mixed” cuisine. Offering Andean-American tortillas crafted from freshly milled organic, non-GMO corn, the taco shop is a delight in every detail.
The 600-square-foot space is bursting at the seams with just 10 indoor seats and standing room at the counter. Twenty more seats are available at picnic tables in the 800-square-foot courtyard, where Carnes grows peppers, herbs and other vegetables that are used in some of the dishes.
Menu favorites include Tacos Chancho, which is made of pork, pickled pineapple peppers, cabbage and salsa chola; and Tacos Cachetón, with smoked beef cheek, pickled scallion and ají served with queso and salsa chola. Chef-inspired vegetarian and allergy-friendly options are available upon request. Chicken, steak and Pescadito Frito (fish tacos) are also available. All tacos come two per order with lime and cilantro.
Sides include spiced plantain chips, yucca fries and Mote Pillo — a farm egg scrambled with hominy. The Llapingachos (potato cakes) are particularly popular with corn salad and ají casero sauce, as is the Ensalada Chola made with corn, radish, tomato, onion, lime and cilantro. The drink menu features non-alcoholic Jarritos Mandarina soft drinks and Pellegrio Limonata sparkling waters, as well as grown-up Micheladas, margaritas, kombuchas, beers and wines.
The French Culinary Institute and ALMA (La Scoula Internazionale di Cucina Italiana) graduate started as chef de cuisine at Cucina Dell’ Arte in Palm Beach. He moved to Ecuador, leading the team at the boutique hotel Mansion Alcazar. Returning to Florida, he helped open the Grille restaurant in Wellington and then became executive chef of the White Horse Tavern.
Cholo Soy Cocina, located at 3715 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, is open for lunch Monday through Friday, with dinner served from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. To learn more, call (561) 619-7018 or visit www.cholosoycocina.com.
ABOVE: A double order of loca; chef Clay Carnes’ Pescadito Frito (fish tacos) is enough to tempt the eye, as well as the palate.