Two years of home kitchen recipe development. Multiple research trips to the outer reaches of Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Guadalajara. Countless hours of fine-tuning everything from floor plans to finishes. Pancito & Lefty is a true labor of love for chef Robert Berry and partner Jimmy Poole, who share a commitment both to hospitality and to creating transportive, unforgettable food experiences with every meal. Blurring the lines between kitchen and bar, Berry works closely with beverage director David Axelrod to marry elevated, cantina-style dishes with innovative-yet-approachable cocktails—based largely on tequila and mezcal from a network of established and under-the-radar makers—plus fresh juices, horchata, and agua frescas. The result is a menu that reads like a Greatest Hits of Mexico. Which, of course, is the goal: to let authenticity, not gimmicks, run the show.
Just six years after graduating from Clemson University, Jimmy Poole had become one of Raleigh’s most successful real estate brokers. But it was his next move—turning properties into hospitality hubs—that marked the turning point in his career. In 2008, after discovering that a run-down 1960s-era bowling alley was on the market, he and his brother bought it on a lark. The Alley was reborn and, following Jimmy’s move to Charleston, was soon joined by a second location in 2012. Now, in his latest venture, Jimmy has teamed up with lauded chef Robert Berry to bring authentic Mexican flavors and a Mezcal-skewed cocktail program to Charleston with the Pancito & Lefty. “I love people,” Jimmy says. “That’s why I’m in a people-first business. I’m passionate about creating new experiences for others that leave a lasting memory.
Robert Berry has never struggled for attention. From Wine Spectator to Food & Wine to Esquire, national magazines have been covering the chef’s career for more than a decade. But for Robert, the dream has always been having a place fully and truly his own, where authentic, honest food drives the kitchen. A place where people work hard, eat with passion, and where, Robert says, “I get to cook the food I love and can’t not cook.” Now, with the opening of Pancito & Lefty, that dream is a reality. Born out of a serendipitously charmed relationship with hospitality insider Jimmy Poole, the restaurant is part-cantina, part-tequila-and-mezcal-bar, and represents years of research and development, three trips to Mexico, and countless hours of fine-tuning everything from the restaurant design to food and cocktail pairings. And throughout it all, Robert has been unapologetic about his outlook on food, his high standards, and his big personality.
MADE FROM THE
Is a Genus of
NATIVE TO THE
HOT AND ARID REGIONS
OF MEXICO AND
THE SOUTHERN UNITED STATES.
A WORD ON AGAVE SPIRITS
Technically, any fermented agave spirit grown in the 8 southern states in Mexico that make up the mezcal denomination of origin. Over 90% of all mezcal comes from the Espadin agave found in Oaxaca, but other varietals include Blanco, Coyote, and Sierra Negra. Like the grapes in wine, the kind of agave used—where it’s grown, the minerals in the soil, seasonal climate changes, whether distilling happens at home in a palenque (garage distillery) or in a commercial outfit—determines the flavor of the spirit. The intense smoke you taste comes from the earthen pits, called hornos, in which the agave is cooked. At Pancito, we rely on tight relationships with artisanal and ancestral producers, such as Mezcalteca, el Distilado, Casa Noble, and Mezcal Vago, to stock a rotating supply of offerings.
IN STOCK AND
There are three key differences between mezcal and tequila. One, tequila comes from five states in Mexico: Julisco, the heart of tequila production, and the four states that surround it. Two, tequila is made exclusively from Blue Agave. Period. Three, once the agave is stripped of its leaves, the remaining pinas are cooked in an above-ground brick or steel oven—basically a large pressure cooker—producing tequila’s clean, smokeless flavor.
THIS VARIETY ACCOUNTS
FOR 90% OF ALL MEZCAL
The smoke you taste comes from the earthen pits, called hornos