When your restaurant is connected to a live music venue that features acts of all genres, attracting concert-goers from all walks of life —rockers, hipsters, cowboys and punks — you'd like to have a menu with a little flair to it, a bit edgier than what they're serving across the street. This is, no doubt, the thought behind the latest menu changes at downtown Little Rock's Revolution restaurant. It boldly promotes the motto, "Eat, Drink, Rock" above the entrance doors, and diners enter expecting a meal that, perhaps, marches to the beat of a different drum.
What better way to spice things up than with tacos? Fancy tacos, that is. Everyone loves tacos. They always appeal to the grumbling-gut late night crowd, and they're perfect for a little culinary improv — a chance to step out of bounds a bit and put a new spin on a familiar favorite. So it was that Revolution remixed its entire menu, opting to churn out an assortment of original taco plates with influences from the Deep South to New England to Hawaii.
The restaurant's interior is spacious and comfortable. Many tables are neatly tucked away into dimly lit booths, making for a cozy, intimate evening. There are also larger tables for groups and a spacious, colorful bar is available for folks wanting to sit there. We chose to take advantage of the spacious outdoor patio. We were pleased to find the service every bit as good outdoors as one might find indoors — our waiter was prompt, helpful and always attentive. We hunkered down with our menus and soon got to eatin'.
The menu begins with an "opening acts" list. Here you'll find a handful of appetizers you might expect from a traditional Mexican joint — green and red salsas, queso, tortilla soup, and guacamole. But it manages to venture a bit off the beaten path with items such as "smothered fries" with melted cheese, bacon, and cracker crumbles, or the "kicked up" crab cakes with roasted red pepper aioli. We opted for the "queso deluxe" ($7), a basket of chips with a sizable bowl of golden melted cheese, pico de gallo and chorizo. The chips were long, curling strips of white corn that came dusted with a spicy cayenne pepper mixture. The queso was hot and remained creamy throughout the duration of its consumption instead of turning into the disgusting, elastic cheese film that can plague cheese dips. The chorizo was a nice touch with notes of smoky cumin and paprika. We felt it could have used a bit more spice, but it was a nice start to the meal.
The "Rockin' Taco" plates are the focus of the menu. Each plate delivers two hefty tacos (on your choice of corn or flour tortillas) and comes paired with two sides. We were enticed by nearly every taco option on the menu. It was clear that these were no ordinary meat-and-onion street tacos being dished up here. Revolution is borrowing bits from regional cuisine across the country — the "Big in Baltimore" with crab cakes, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle; the "Big Tex" with steak, onions and peppers; the "Honolulu Luau" with sweet pulled pork and mango salsa.
We first sampled the "Beale Street BBQ," which featured shredded barbecue pork, jack cheese, white onion and crunchy slaw. The pork was tender and flavorful. Its juices slowly seeped from the edges from the tacos. The slaw had a nice crunch, a welcome counterpoint to the soft pork. They were finished with a salty cheese and slightly sweet barbecue sauce and we had no problem devouring the set. For our accompanying sides, we chose sweet potato chips and a green chile hash brown casserole. The chips came out thin and crisp, but maybe a titch over-fried. They played well, however, with the creamy aioli alongside for dipping. The hash brown casserole was a success as well. While we were a little surprised to find the dish topped with (what appeared to be) crumbled Doritos, the potatoes were soft and cheesy, the chilies adding a nice spice to the mixture.
Next, we sampled the "Caribbean Crunch" tacos — a duo featuring coconut shrimp, lettuce, mango salsa, and queso fresco. The meaty shrimp were fried crisp. The dish was a bit sweeter than we expected — not something we usually go for in tacos. We chose freshly cut fries as one of our sides this go-round. These were served hot and crisp, with the "natural cut," skin-on approach. They benefited from a pinch of salt, but we were not sorry for ordering them.
Revolution appears to have captured a bit of the rock-and-roll spirit in its latest menu. It's comfortable, but also a little out of the ordinary. The plates are filling and affordable, plenty to get you through a long, hard night of head-banging or whatever it is you chose to do while enjoying the sweet sounds issuing from the nearby stage.
Maybe they're owned by a Chik-Fil-A devotee. Or Hobby Lobby. But I just called and…