Don’t be surprised when you walk into Maya del Sol Kitchen on a Sunday to the savory aroma of rosemary, an ingredient that’s not often the star of the show during brunch. But in chef/owner Raul Sanchez’s small kitchen, half a pound of the fragrant herb is used to make just 10 orders of his famed rosemary pancakes, a family recipe.
“Nobody has an idea what they’re getting until they’re in front of them,” Sanchez said. “They’re loaded with [rosemary], but it’s not overpowering. Again, it’s just bringing family recipes to the table.”
Along with the rosemary, the recipe — which Sanchez credits to his mother — calls for flour, sweetened condensed milk, dulce de leche, cinnamon, vanilla and other spices. It’s one of two dishes that earned a permanent spot on the Maya del Sol brunch menu.
“Family recipes are developed many years ago, and they start to die over time unless there’s someone in the family that cooks,” Sanchez said.
Honoring his family recipes and developing his own has been the mission for Sanchez since opening Raul’s Taqueria and Mexican Grill in 2011 at the intersection of Rivers Avenue and Remount Road in North Charleston. That restaurant, along with a subsequent Park Circle location, were based on the country-style Mexican cuisine he grew up with in Chicago.
“I was born and raised in Chicago — Mexican parents, both were chefs — so I’ve been in the food world ever since I can remember,” Sanchez told the Charleston City Paper in February. “My parents didn’t want us to get into the food world obviously, but I’m the only one from eight who did.”
At Maya del Sol, Sanchez delivers his family-style cuisine in a chef’s-tasting format, meaning the menu changes weekly. At brunch, served Sundays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., the menu is inspired by weekly grocery stops and “whatever inspires me to cook,” Sanchez said.
“The customers get excited because they don’t know what the rest of the menu is going to look like, and neither do I until Monday afternoon, when I’m done with my shopping,” he said.
Recently, a platter of carnitas hit the midday menu after an inspirational trip to the market.
“I went out shopping, and they had Boston butt and ribs on sale. It just brought me back that I hadn’t made carnitas in a long time,” said Sanchez, who was pleased with the final result. “To me just looking at the plate, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw those pieces of meat on sale.”
While the majority of Sanchez’s weekly brunch menu is curated the week of service, the rosemary pancakes aren’t the only Sunday staple.
“Everybody in Mexico knows chilaquiles their way. Everybody in Mexico has a recipe,” said Sanchez, describing the classic breakfast dish in which fried corn tortilla chips are topped with sauce, cheese and other toppings. “The cheese and the onions is what’s so traditional to eat them with, and it’s also traditional to eat with eggs and steak. It just depends on where you’re at.”
For Sanchez, the key to chilaquiles is fresh homemade tortilla chips. He simmers his in a sauce filled with garlic, oregano and other spices before topping with fresh onions, steak, eggs and queso fresco.
“To me, that’s like Mexican comfort food,” he said.
Sanchez leaves most of his marketing efforts up to word-of-mouth. While the pandemic has made this a challenge, folks are slowly starting to wander in for brunch on Sundays.
“Every week someone walks in for lunch or brunch. Little by little the word is getting out,” Sanchez said. “The response has been great, and dinner’s the same way. The fact that I see new people and old faces on a weekly basis is making it worthwhile.”