Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
The news a Mexican restaurant was moving into the space Faded Rose vacated on Bowman Road didn't exactly red-line our excitement meter. The proliferation of decent-but-taste-the-same Mexican spots has been rabbit-like over the last decade. So did we need one more?
A glance at Bumpy's menu online suggested something different might be going on there, and two recent visits proved that's the case. From a look-and-feel perspective, Bumpy's isn't much different from the Faded Rose. If you're seated in the bar area checking out NBA playoff games, you might think you're in a decent sports bar. The sound system pipes country radio giant KSSN-FM. Nothing visually or audibly screams "Mexican."
The menu isn't cookie-cutter Mex either. Yes, you can get cheese dip (natch), quesadillas, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas and chimichangas, but you also can choose baby back ribs, fried fish, a half-pound burger and a grilled chicken salad. Vegetables include some expected choices, but also hand-cut wedge fries, garlic mashed potatoes and two of our favorite "veggies": a cup of chili or cheese potato soup.
Another difference at Bumpy's — and not just compared to other Mexican restaurants — is that owner Wade Greenough has instilled a "we try harder" mentality in his kitchen and staff. Hosts, waiters and bartenders are peppy, outgoing, attentive and friendly. Also a nice touch — go to the Bumpy's Facebook page, and ask for an e-mailed voucher for a free appetizer. Happy hour specials (3 to 7 p.m. seven days a week) include a frosty draft beer (including Dos Equis) for $1.50 and $2.50 for 12-ounce and 20-ounce schooners, a very respectable margarita for only $2.50, and top-flight, cumin-laced traditional cheese dip at half-price ($2 for a cup and $2.50 for a bowl).
Clearly, Greenough wants to give people reasons to come to Bumpy's and hopes the service and food will bring them back. It worked for us.
Again, we really dug — and dug into — the queso, which our waiter told us management had been working hard to perfect. The salsa is fairly standard and not chunky with just a hint of zing. Our waiter later offered salsa verde. The green blend is crisp, smoky and a bit vinegary with a kick that comes on late — addictive. Ask for it.
We used our free appetizer voucher for the Bumpy's Sampler ($7.99), a combination of TexMex eggrolls, taquitos and cheese fries. The taquitos were the star here — crisp, not greasy, filled with excellent white, shredded chicken. We learned the tortillas are housemade, a nice touch. Bumpy's website reinforces the commitment: "All of our products are fresh, local products, never canned or frozen. All items are made fresh from scratch daily."
The taquitos are also available solo — eight to an order with good, chunky guacamole, queso, sour cream and jalapenos on the side ($5.29 for beef or chicken; $7.49 for shrimp or crawfish). The appetizer is enough to make a meal.
The baby backs were tender but seemed more parboiled than smoked, coated with standard-issue, thickish barbecue sauce. You can get a whole or half rack ($10.99/$15.99) or in a surf 'n' turf combo for $15.99 — a half-rack served with four Shrimp Perfectos, large shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and jalapeno, wrapped in bacon and broiled. A suggestion to the kitchen: cook the bacon a bit first so the shrimp comes out perfecto, as it did, but the bacon will be crisp, which it wasn't. The accompanying garlic mashed potatoes were chunky, clearly homemade and tasty. The black beans were a bit soupy but flavorful; the rice was well herbed and not sticky — good stuff. A full order of eight Shrimp Perfectos is $13.99.
The Cancun ($12.99) features two enchiladas stuffed with a generous portion of sauteed shrimp and crawfish melded with gooey white cheese and smothered in a white wine cream sauce. These are creamy, dreamy enchiladas that are tasty, luscious and decadent. We went for the chili as a side item and found it serviceable but not over-the-top outstanding. The chicken enchiladas were stuffed with that same excellent shredded chicken and topped with a sour cream sauce and cheese. At $7.49 with two sides, they are filling and a bargain.
There will be a next time for us at Bumpy's, and it likely will include one of their two flatbread pizzas ($6.99), fajitas or tacos, which come hard or soft and stuffed with ground beef, steak, chicken, grilled shrimp or fried fish. And you can bet we'll be there between 3 and 7 p.m.!