Our wonderful neighbor to the south, Mexico, is responsible for sending us many great and important things—tacos, piñatas, and Carlos Santana, just to name a few. But let’s not forget their contributions to the world of fried, sugary pastry. Specifically, let’s take a moment to recognize the beauty of the churro.
The churro is not seen enough around this town. Our fried pastry arena is dominated by Shipley’s and the like, but if you’ve spent some time around a few of Little Rock’s Mexican bakeries, or panaderias, you may have witnessed some of the subtly sweet and spectacular things issuing from their oven. Churros, in truth, may have originated in Spain or Portugal, but in this town, you’ll find our Mexican brothers doing them as well as anyone on the globe.
Perhaps one of the best bakeries to find these treats is El Torito. It’s a small Mexican market and taqueria huddled away in a small strip mall off Bowman. Inside you’ll find Mexican groceries of all sort, a carniceria in back, and a small restaurant in the corner. But front-and-center is a large glass bakery case filled with all sorts of bright, colorful baked goods. Honestly, many of them have never appealed to me, but there are definitely some standouts to be had. The fresh churros are probably the best thing available.
The pliable, chewy dough is piped through a “churrera,” a syringe with a star-shaped nozzle. They’re given a bath in the deep fryer until golden brown, sprinkled in cinnamon and sugar, and whisked away to the display case for sale. The outer layer of the dough crisps up nicely, while the interior remains slightly chewy. But the churros of El Torito have a wonderful surprise inside—they’re laced with a ribbon of creamy, sticky dulce de leche. It’s a sweet, milky filling that really puts these churros over the top.
Even if you don’t catch them fresh from the oven, they are still surprisingly delightful. Or grab a half-dozen or so, take them home, pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds and enjoy. Extremists may even venture to concoct a chocolate dipping sauce to enhance the blissful experience, but this is optional and probably unnecessary. Either way, you’re in for a deep-fried delight when you make a trip to El Torito.
El Torito is located at 303 Bowman Rd, Little Rock, (501) 224-0444
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