Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
One of the newer additions to Little Rock's array of food trucks is Grills on Wheels, serving up tacos, burritos, tortas and quesadillas. Lately, the trailer has been parked on the east side of the Arkansas Studies Institute. That's been good news for those of us who live and/or work downtown, as it means we can gorge on cheap, delicious tacos without having to drive out to the southwest side of town.
Surely by now most Arkansas Times readers are aware that a taco can — and, one could argue, should — be much, much more than a sad ladleful of watery meat-slop deposited into a hard, yellow corn shell and topped with iceberg lettuce, flavorless tomato cubes and shredded cheddar-jack cheese. If that's what you're looking for, though, steer clear of Grills on Wheels. Because these folks serve up soft tacos filled with tender, juicy, delicious (did we say that already? Because it bears repeating: these things are delicious) meat, topped with salsa, diced onions, cilantro and slices of grilled peppers.
Oh, and they're $1.50 each, or $2 served on a slightly larger flour tortilla. They're small, but deceptively filling, so unless you're a 6' 6", 266-lb. lumberjack who's just won a boulder-throwing contest, start off with no more than four.
On our first visit, we opted for two asada (grilled steak), one barbacoa (slow-cooked beef) and one buche (seasoned pork tripe). The asada was good, but comparable to several other Mexican joints around town. That's not to knock it — it was still tasty and unlike some places, it didn't suffer from being overly salty. The real treats were the barbacoa and the buche. If the word "barbacoa" has a familiar ring to it, think barbecued beef. The stuff was moist and fall-apart tender, like good brisket drenched in a savory sauce. Excellent. Barbacoa is usually made with beef cheeks, which are among the tenderest cuts of the cow.
If you're squeamish about eating things like intestines or tongues (aka lengua, also available at Grills on Wheels), well, here's your chance to get over a hang-up that has heretofore kept you from a world of food enjoyment. The pork tripe was tender and tasty, spicy and stained bright red from seasonings. For the uninitiated, the texture can take a bit of getting used to. It's a bit on the chewy side, but it's closer to calamari than Swedish fish. We haven't gotten around to trying the lengua yet, but if the other offerings at Grills are any indication, it's probably as good as it is at some of the taquerias around the state.
On the next visit, we tried a burrito. It was a tight little flour-wrapped football filled with meat, beans, rice, tomatoes and lettuce, served with a side of salsa for pouring over the top. For all menu items, you can choose a combination of up to two meats, so we opted for asada and barbacoa. It's essentially the same set of flavors as the tacos, with the addition of beans and rice. It was, again, delicious.
On our third trip (hey, we're trying to be thorough here, OK?), we tried the torta, a Mexican sandwich with mayo, meat, onion, tomato, cilantro, lettuce and pickled jalapenos served on a bun that's close to brioche. It was really, really good and filling, but it also was a greasy gut-bomb that resulted in some gnarly, persistent heartburn. If you had a wicked hangover and needed something to knock it out and put you down for a nap, this is it. We ordered it with barbacoa and pastor, which is pork that's slow-cooked with pineapple and spices for a sweet and savory flavor explosion.
Grills on Wheels seems content to stay on President Clinton Ave. for the near term. But wherever it goes, we will follow.For hours and more information, click here.