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Imagine walking around downtown Eureka Springs in the middle of a hot, early-summer day. There's the heat rising off the concrete, the buzzing motorcycles, the tie-dye clad hordes milling about. You're hungry — what's worse, your spouse is hungry, bordering on cranky — and you have a dog in tow. You'd settle for an eating establishment that was merely accommodating, but you stumble upon a comforting oasis, and one that serves tacos!
We settled on the patio at Aquarius Taqueria on Main Street. Right away, we were greeted by a friendly server who, unprompted, brought out a water dish for our canine companion. It was a sweet gesture and much appreciated. The patio was shaded and cool, open and uncramped. A waterfall trickles off a rock bluff along the back edge. You feel like you're in a hideaway, tucked off the beaten path, which hums just a few feet away.
Now that the dog had something to sip on, we sought the same, but something with a nice little afternoon kick. We settled on The Burro ($7), a springy and refreshing concoction of ginger beer, lime and tequila. It's perfect for a hot afternoon. Its had enough punch to remind us we we're on vacation and enough other stuff to actually keep us hydrated.
Icy-cold and tequila-tinged, it's the perfect compliment to a salty and warm app, which we found in the Super Combo appetizer ($9). We have a short list of restaurants in Arkansas at which an appetizer order is a must and this is now one of them. What you get is a batch of just-fried tortilla chip strips, surrounded by a dazzling array of homemade salsas and fixings. There's a pineapple salsa that's chunky with a hint of hot. There's a warm chipotle variety; a salsa verde; a finely blended pico salsa; a pickled mixture of onions, carrots and jalapenos; a fine guacamole; and crema. We mixed, matched, piled upon, swirled around, dunked, dipped. We called in another drink for backup.
An Aquarius Salad ($4) came out with dinner. It's a good size, very fresh, and the flavors worked well together. It was light enough to leave our appetite unspoiled and satisfying all at once. We liked that they topped the salad with radishes and pumpkin seeds — something we'd like to see from more restaurants, please. The hint of lime in the creamy avocado dressing along with the pico de gallo made for a very flavorful salad. As always, queso fresco was a nice touch.
And then it was taco time. We ordered two from the menu and trusted the special of the day for our third selection. The Pescado Taco ($3.75) was one of the best we've had in awhile, not to mention a pleasure to look at. Lumped on a homemade tortilla, the fish, slaw and radishes looked vibrant. It was a welcome relief that Aquarius used seasonal fish, in this case haddock, instead of the usual go-to tilapia. The generous portion of haddock was meaty and mild, almost sweet, with a perfectly crisp, crunchy rice batter that wasn't greasy or soggy. More crunch came from the cabbage, and the pico de gallo and spicy crema added a bit of a kick. We ordered ours light on the crema, and it was just the right amount. Any more may have been too rich. The Camarones Taco ($4.25) was solid, too, though our helping of crema was a bit much for our taste. The grilled shrimp were delicious, seasoned with chipotle, flame-kissed and topped off with that nice, chunky pineapple salsa. Cabbage and a couple of radish slices provided a nice tart crunch. And a sprinkle of lime gives the whole thing a little lift.
The special taco of the day ($3.50) was of the pork variety. We can't pass up a good pork taco and we weren't let down. One bite takes you through the warm, soft taco shell, a dash of queso fresco, a tart piece of cabbage, thick and cold guacamole, and you finally arrive at the smoked pulled pork, which is tender and well-seasoned.
At the end of the meal, we surveyed the damage, happy and full, and plotted to come back the next day.
91 S. Main St.
Aquarius is owned by the same folks who own Local Flavor, which has been serving up great cuisine in Eureka Springs for years. Knowing what we know about that establishment, and everything we've had at this one, it's hard to go wrong. If it's nibbles you're after, splurge on the super combo appetizer. For a few dollars more you get a smattering of different tastes and textures.
11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Sunday. 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Credit cards accepted, full bar.