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While the Flying Fish is a regional chain, the Little Rock location in the River Market is so well loved that most people include it with our locally owned restaurants. This might have something to do with the down-home, lived-in look and feel of the place, because it's not every day you see a restaurant with entire walls dedicated to abandoned Big Mouth Billy Bass plaques. Fad plastic fish aside, the Flying Fish is also pretty good at the real kind, with a wide selection of seafood prepared almost any way you like it, from fried catfish to fresh oysters. A first-timer going into the place might be a bit overwhelmed at the broad scope of such a menu, especially since there's usually quite a crush of people heading up to the counter to place an order — and locals on lunch-break schedules often don't take kindly to the uninitiated dawdling over what to order.
But have no fear, friends, we're here to help, because there's one thing on the Flying Fish menu that's easy to overlook and a real tragedy if you do: the Fish Tacos ($9.99). Yes, the shrimp and crab legs are good, and yes, the fried oyster basket is a thing of beauty, but it's these tacos that keep me coming back time and time again. For the health conscious out there among you, the grilled tilapia version of this dish is worth eating, but since we have a reputation as fried food aficionados to uphold here on Eat Arkansas, I've got to tell you that the fried catfish version is the superior choice. When these tacos hit your table, the differences from other tacos in the area are apparent: first, the fish is held by a crisp corn shell instead of the usual soft corn or flour shell. These shells, in addition to adding a satisfying crunch, are necessary to hold in all the delicious toppings that come along with the fish — a heaping helping of the Flying Fish's excellent cole slaw and a generous pile of tangy, spicy pico de gallo. I've had fish tacos served with slaw other places; I've also had fish tacos with pico — but to my knowledge, these are the only tacos in town that do both, and it works perfectly.
These tacos are a great combination of the crisp, well-breaded catfish that the Flying Fish is known for, wrapped in a crunchy shell and set off by the slaw and pico. If you've never tried fish tacos, you could do a lot worse than making these your first foray into a more delicious world, and if you're a fish taco veteran like myself, you've got to cross these beauties off your fish taco bucket list before you shuffle off this mortal coil. The Little Rock location of the Flying Fish is located at 511 President Clinton Avenue in the River Market, and they're open 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The lines can get long, but don't let that keep you away; the service is speedy and efficient, and you'll be stuffing these tacos in your face in no time.