When Robert Berry put grasshopper salt on the menu at Pancito & Lefty, he feared “it was going to go over like a lead balloon.” More than two weeks into service, though, only one customer has balked at having insect bodies in her guacamole.
“It’s the cool kid thing now in California, and Charleston’s a big boy town,” Berry says of the salt, made with chilies and chapulines, as the critters are known in Mexico. “People are pretty exploratory.”
Because the salt is listed on the menu as “sal de chapulin,” it’s not certain how many customers realized what they were eating. But Berry says he’ll happily leave the salt out of the guacamole for vegetarians or other guests who object to grasshopper bits in their mashed avocado. “We’re not trying to force anything down anybody’s throat,” he says. “It’s one less thing for me to do.”
Berry is now working on sourcing “whole bugs,” which are a popular snack in Oaxaca; chapulines-topped tlayuda (a partially fried and bean-smeared corn tortilla that’s frequently compared to a pizza) are also common in Mexico City.
While Berry has been surprised by customers’ high tolerance for unfamiliar ingredients, he says he was also taken aback in the restaurant’s opening days by how much people drink. On a recent winter Saturday, Pancito & Lefty sold 240 margaritas. A portion of those margaritas are batched and kept on tap, but classic margaritas are made to order, even though a bartender tried to sell Berry on shifting to an all-tap margarita program to accommodate demand.
“People are crushing them,” Berry says.