My normal expectation for a chain restaurant taco is some limp, hopeless meat covered up by a pile of Taco Bell-style lettuce and cheese. Years ago, this would have suited me just fine, but I've seen too much of tacos these days to settle for anything less than that bright, tangy flavor that comes from the traditional taco: grilled meat with a healthy dose of onions, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. Not everybody likes them that way, though, so wouldn't it be nice if there were restaurants out there that gave you a choice? Sure, it would, and El Porton on Highway 10 does just that.
I sampled three different tacos at El Porton: a fantastic al Pastor that was redolent with citrus and spice, a tender skirt steak cooked to a nice medium well, and a grilled chicken that was passable but didn't really compare with the other two. And while these tacos were wrapped in the flour tortillas we norteamericanos tend to prefer, the flavors inside were authentic and good. I'm not a fan of taco joints that cover their proteins with all sorts of salsas and toppings, so these simple tacos were right up my alley.
Even better than the tacos was a dish off the tapas menu called Ceviche Mixtos, two small glasses that contained shrimp ceviche in one and white fish ceviche in the other. I've always liked the acid "cooked" seafood dish, and this version at El Porton was wonderful: clean, bright tasting fish and shrimp with a spicy fresh pico de gallo that would have been good to eat by itself. It's one of the best versions of ceviche in Little Rock, something I'd never thought to say about a chain joint. Still, credit where credit's due — this spicy citrus and seafood dish is one of the best things I've eaten lately.
The menu at El Porton is huge; almost overwhelmingly so. Giant burritos, combination platters, and a wide selection of fajitas make the place guaranteed to fit almost any taste. It's going to take some time for me to branch out into the other areas of that menu, though — that ceviche is just too good to pass up.