Lana’s Mexican Restaurant is quickly becoming an island hot spot
***image1***“Lana” of Lana’s Mexican Restaurant is the toddler daughter of owners Leilani and Jose Baird. Blessed with a bubbly personality, the 20-month-old dynamo is a favorite of patrons and staff alike.
Her parents opened Lana’s Aug. 26, which is Daniel Island’s first Mexican restaurant. And they’re enjoying the experience.
“The people here on Daniel Island are so nice,” Jose Baird said. “They seem to want us to succeed and have been very supportive. It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s like being in a small town.”
With a staff of 15, Lana’s Mexican Restaurant serves a full menu of Mexican fare, which includes mouth-watering fajitas served double-stacked on a big platter with little bowls of sauces.
For the Bairds, landing on Daniel Island was serendipitous.
“Last year we went to Mount Pleasant to look for a possible business location for a restaurant,” Jose recalled. “We were disappointed at what was available, but when we were driving back west on 526, Leilani said, ‘Let’s take a look on Daniel Island.’”
When they saw a “For Lease” sign at 885 Island Park Drive, their dream was born. They signed a rental agreement in August 2004 and have transformed the space into an open, pleasant cafe that also includes an outdoor dining courtyard.
The Bairds are first-time restaurateurs. They also own La Amistad, which provides translation services throughout the Charleston area. Leilani, who is also a labor-and-delivery nurse, is expecting the couple’s second child Dec. 25. Jose hails from New York City and New Jersey and moved here in 1986, where he worked for Bayer Corp. He met Leilani in 1994 at an Air Force ball and they were married in 1997.
***image3***The restaurant’s food is delivered and cooked fresh daily, said Jose, whose family originally came from Ecuador. Neither he nor Leilani are of Mexican descent and he describes the menu as “Americanized” Mexican.
“We hired our chefs and cooks and then determined the menu by what they could cook,” he said.
Since Lana’s cooks have worked at other highly regarded Charleston restaurants, Baird plans to introduce non-Hispanic specialties such as shrimp and grits and orange chicken.
“We want to create an atmosphere where our clients are well taken care of,” Jose said. “We really want to cater to the people who live on Daniel Island and make it their restaurant. The traffic has been very good and we couldn’t be happier.”