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For those of us who grew up on Browning's Mexican food in the 1960s, marveled when Juanita's introduced us to fajitas and Blue Mesa to white cheese dip in the 1980s and somehow still think Casa Manana and Senor Tequila are "authentic Mexican," it's nice to get tips about restaurants where the patrons are working-class folks for whom Spanish is the primary or only language, where the signs are in Spanish and the TV blares Mexican soap operas or music videos.
We've ventured to Southwest Little Rock to a couple of great Mexican eateries, and recently we were counseled to try Super 7, which is just south of Kanis on John Barrow, just a couple of minutes off the well-beaten Interstate 630 path. As far as square footage goes, Super 7 is about equal parts basic grocery store and restaurant, but we figure the restaurant generates upward of 75 percent of the revenue.
Super 7 is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week and has an all-day all-you-can-eat buffet (which closes at 8 p.m.). Ask an Arkie gringo what he might expect of such a feed trough and he might say tacos, enchiladas, maybe even fajitas, plus guacamole and a vat of cheese dip. Not so much at Super 7, where the buffet is more of a Mexican home-cooking offering: three meats, some veggies, even a salad bar. Most of the workers lunching at Super 7 were opting for the instant gratification and unlimited quantities of the buffet ($9.99 weekdays and $10.99 weekends).
We enjoyed the very thin, very hot complimentary salsa as we pondered the large menu. We were intrigued by the caldos section; caldo is Spanish for soup, but the Super 7 menu translated it as "Mexican stews," which fits. We opted for the pozole ($8.99); its rich broth had a nice sheen provided by dozens of hunks of pork, some with small bits of fat attached and all 100 percent tender. The hominy was flavorful and al dente. It was a fabulous dish in every way, served with chopped onion, cilantro, lime and three hard corn tortillas.
Our buddy opted for the burrito supreme ($7.50), an eight-inch tortilla stuffed with fajita-style beef vs. the expected ground beef — a nice upgrade — with a smaller quantity of beans and cheese. Topped with white cheese dip, the burrito was served with standard-issue refried beans and the fluffiest, most tender Mexican rice we've had.
The only culinary bummer was the flan ($1.99), served in a plastic drink cup and grainier than it should have been.
We took our time eating and soaking up the atmosphere. We were sorry the jukebox was broken (or at least unplugged) because we would have pumped a few bucks into it to be exposed to some new music. We walked the aisles of the store, and like with the buffet, what was offered surprised us. There were a few specialty items, but most was just general stuff: grape jelly, sugar, vegetable oil, other dry goods, laundry detergent.
We can't imagine we'll ever shop at Super 7, but we'll certainly be back to explore the restaurant menu more broadly. If the carnitas, lengua torta, tamales and enchiladas are on par with the pork/hominy stew and burrito, then Super 7 will vault to the top of the list of our favorite Mexican spots.
1415 John Barrow Road
Thirsty in the area of John Barrow and Kanis? You might want to pop into Super 7 for a cold beer. Domestics are $2.50, and for another dime you can get a frosty-cold Mexican cerveza. Let's see ... Bud Light $2.50 ... Pacifico $2.60. Talk about a no-brainer.
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
All credit cards accepted.