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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rock 'N Tacos and Tamales now open in the Market Place Shopping Center

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 10:08 AM


Not too long ago, I had some complaints about the available burrito options in our city. After a rather disappointing venture to Blue Coast Burrito, I was left lamenting the lack of exceptional big, fat, stuffed burritos. But if you’ve driven down the West Little Rock side of Rodney Parham Rd recently, you may have noticed a small sign announcing the eminent arrival of a new “California-style” taco and tamale joint on a corner outside the Market Place Shopping Center. This past weekend, I found their sign announcing that they were “now open,” and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would make an obligatory trip inside of Little Rock’s latest taco shop, “Rock 'N Tacos and Tamales.”

Rock 'N Tacos and Tamales is situated just a couple doors down from the Lilly’s Dim Sum/B-Side folks. Walking in, the place is clean, tidy, and casual. It’s an order-at-the-counter, assemble-to-order establishment (not unlike Chipotle or Blue Coast), in which you select your salad, burrito, or tacos and the staff put together the food to your specifications. Typically, I’m not so keen on these sorts of operations. I’m generally turned off by the idea of my food sitting around in plastic containers all day waiting to be carelessly slapped together at my beck and call. I understand this must be done to some degree in most restaurants, every dish requires a bit of per-order prep work, but I really don’t think it’s too much to ask to have my steak, chicken, pork, and vegetables cooked to order…it’s being done at thousands of Mexican joints across the country. The assemble-to-order places are clearly built for speed and efficiency, and for many, it’s working out fairly well for them.

Despite my preconceived bias towards such restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised by my meal at Rock 'N Tacos. There’s room for improvement, for sure, but I noticed the owner asking patrons for their sincere opinions and suggestions, a good sign that they’re willing to weed out any flaws.

The menu at Rock 'N Tacos is not particularly astonishing. It’s the sort of Mexican food that appeals to diners who are generally less eager to seek out more authentic options from some of the more unsavory Mexican restaurants and taquerias. Here, the offerings are safe and not unexpected, but that’s not to say everything is dreadful. You’ll find big taco salads in crispy fried flour tortilla bowls, street tacos, chimichangas, cerviche, and burritos. As the name implies, they make their tamales in house, but unfortunately they did not have them when I visited. Premature opening? Perhaps. You’d think if you were opening a tamale house, you’d want to actually serve tamales on the first or second day of business. But this being “California-style” cuisine, I had to go with a big burrito as well as a fish taco, the two items I equate most with Baja style cooking.

The fish taco was delightful. The fish, which I’m guessing was cod, is batter dipped and fried a deep golden brown. It was a fairly thick, substantial cut of fish and filled the whole of its flour tortilla. It was topped with a creamy white dressing and a mild green tomatillo salsa—each complemented the fish well, and didn’t overwhelm the mild fish flavor. The tortillas were clearly not housemade, lacked real freshness, and were a little too gummy for my liking. This is the major flaw you’ll find at most hackneyed, half-hearted Mexican joints. Start making your own tortillas, Rock 'N Taco, and you’ll definitely have me hooked on your fish tacos.

My burrito was a good bit tastier than others I’ve experienced at burrito joints similar in design despite the all-too-familiar “scoop and serve” set-up. The large, flour tortillas are run through a hot press until softened. They’re flecked with spinach bits to add an herbaceous note to the entire dish. I opted for the carne asada (as they were out of my original choice, al pastor) and proceeded to fill my burrito with cheddar and jack cheeses, cilantro rice, black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato. I was pleased to find my grilled steak flavorful and tender. There were a few tendinous bits, but a little chew has never stopped me from polishing off a burrito in the past. They’ve got a small salsa bar with spicy red, mild green tomatillo, and pineapple salsas. The pineapple is a bit too much for me, as it don’t care for the excessive sweetness, but the red and green will make excellent additions to most items on the menu board.

I’m more than willing to return to Rock 'N Tacos and Tamales in the near future. I’ll wait a few weeks for them to really get their feet planted, but I’m anxious to see what they can do with tamales. They’ll likely be warmly welcomed by the bustling lunch crowds that populate this corner of West Little Rock.

(Rock ‘N Tacos and Tamales is located at 11121 North Rodney Parham Rd. Ste 40 B, Little Rock. Open Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, closed Sunday. 501-812-3461.

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