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If you're searching for a realistic Mexican dining experience, Cactus Jack's Authentic Mexican Restaurant is not the spot.
But if you're searching for a place to get a good Mexican-esque meal cheap in comfortable surroundings, you're in luck.
Steve Im's latest venture has opened in the spot where the Montana Steakhouse failed a short time back — on the other end of the McCain Crossing shopping center from Im's other enterprise, the thriving Kanpai Japanese Steakhouse.
The interior decor is inoffensive and comfortable, with large booths and tables on either side of a centrally-located bar. The throwback-style Mexican background music is perhaps a bit too loud, but again, inoffensive.
Companion in tow, we ventured over to check out the new offerings on a recent weekday at lunch. We were cordially greeted and quickly seated. Our menus contained many of the expected offerings for any such restaurant — a Speedy Gonzales plate, fajitas, burritos, nachos, salads. The only extraordinary thing about the menus seemed to be the more than reasonable prices.
We settled for a couple of old standards. Companion ordered the lunch size fajitas ($6.50), while we opted for the special lunch No. 1, a chile relleno and a taco ($4.50). We also ordered, of course, the cheese dip. We went for the small ($3.25, $5.25 for the large) since we were both graced with large portions of house salsa and chips on arrival.
Our food arrived on short notice on several plates. Enormous pools of refried beans and guacamole salads came with our selections. Companion's fajitas, somewhat sizzling on arrival, were served with three small tortillas.
The food is nothing to complain about, but utterly undistinguished. We identified the white cheese dip as your average pasteurized process cheese spread, the salsa as your average picante sauce, the guacamole as your average guacamole dip. Nothing stood out about anything we tried.
There are a few items of interest on the menu that we discovered after perusing the menu later — including Pescado Veracruzano ($8), a catfish filet baked with garlic and cooked in chipotle sauce, and Pollo Hawaiiano ($8.75), grilled chicken strips covered in Poblano peppers, mushrooms, pineapple and cheese. Unfortunately, our waitress wasn't around enough to tell us about these items or refill our beverages.
Cactus Jack's is relatively new. Perhaps a little seasoning with time and attention from the staff and chef will spice up this North Little Rock eatery. For now, the prices will likely keep diners coming back.
Cactus Jack's Authentic Mexican Restaurant
4120 E. McCain Blvd.
Everything you've come to expect from the average Mexican restaurant. Ample portions, if not ample seasoning. However, it's easy on the pocketbook.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The restaurant has applied for a Sunday beverage permit. Beer and tequila selections are typical. Credit cards accepted.