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Las Delicias is 

Humble hole-in-the-wall has authentic Mexican food.

click to enlarge A DELICIOUS SPECIAL: The carnitas dinner, with chopped pork slow-cooked in lard.
  • A DELICIOUS SPECIAL: The carnitas dinner, with chopped pork slow-cooked in lard.

We have long been a supporter of the Southwest Little Rock bastion of authentic Mexican food. Not once have we been disappointed by a food truck south of 65th Street. However, there exists another epicenter of excellent Latin food on the north side of the river, in Levy. There you will find Rosalinda's, serving up Honduran food, and a bevvy of Mexican restaurants on Pike Avenue: Taqueria Guadalajara, Tortas México, El Paisano and, in our opinion, the crown jewel: Las Delicias.

Located at the corner of a five-way intersection, Las Delicias is a fairly unassuming Mercado-plus-restaurant combo north of the railroad tracks. It has in spades what the rest of Levy has, too: a subtle charm and old-fashioned quality, like time stood still while storefronts changed hands, got boarded up and reopened over the years. The neighborhood is enriched by a large Latin population, and the local commerce reflects that: envios de dinero a Mexico sites (to wire money to Mexico), various mercados, independent insurance proprietors, a store called "Cell Phone Hospital No. 2."

The mercado side of Las Delicias is not much to write home about. The produce selection is limited, and there are a few rows of sundries and household cleaning supplies. It feels more like a convenience store than a full-fledged mercado. Flanking the entrance to the restaurant side, though, is a truly impressive selection of chips and hot sauces of all manner of intensity and flavoring. We have always enjoyed experiencing the cuisines of different cultures by way of junk food. Wheat puffs and meat puffs, plantain chips and tamarind Cheetos, Takis galore and jalapeno Fritos are a few snacks to behold.

The restaurant has the classic trappings of a "hole in the wall": humble seating, hodgepodge decor, cheap prices and very, very good eats. We sat in margarine-yellow contour booths, drank many $2 Coronas and ordered an enormous amount of food. A new-school jukebox played Mexican ballads and cumbia tunes. As we started to inquire over the menu, we noticed a single pothos houseplant encircling the molding of the entire restaurant, its leaves hanging down like little flags on a bunting.

The salsa was served cold in a tall squeeze bottle. It had a tomato and cilantro base, was pureed thoroughly, and was a little spicier than we expected. The cheese dip ($2.99) was a classic white dip, silky smooth and spiked with an occasional jalapeno. And the quac: We've never tasted a more buttery, nor more savory, avocado dip ($2.99).

Tacos ($1.25 each) are standard street-style, a corn tortilla doubled up, with onion and cilantro and plenty of meat choices: asada, al pastor, lengua, barbacoa, pollo, chorizo, carnitas. If unsure what to go for on the menu, we'd suggest ordering one of each of those tacos and calling it a day.

click to enlarge CAN'T GO WRONG WITH TACOS: They come street-style at Las Delicias.
  • CAN'T GO WRONG WITH TACOS: They come street-style at Las Delicias.

The tamales ($2 each) are plenty moist, generous in serving size and filled with pulled pork. On more than one occasion, we have called in a last-minute tamale to-go order from Las Delicias for a party hosted in our home. They please any crowd.

Aside from solid a la carte offerings (tacos, tamales, tortas, ceviche, quesadillas), Las Delicias has a lengthy "Especialidades de la Cocina" menu, including a variety of surf or turf options. We were pleased by the fattiness of the carnitas dinner plate ($7.99), a chopped pork dish slow-cooked in lard until the meat gets stringy and tender.

Our friend ordered breakfast for dinner: huevos revueltos con chorizo, arroz y frijoles (scrambled eggs with Mexican sausage, rice and beans). Chorizo has an unstoppable scarf-able quality to it, much like any other sausage, but it's softer, spicier and more savory. It immediately elevates the flavor of any dish to something you simply cannot stop eating.

We sampled the horchata ($1.99), a sweet rice drink mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. It was refreshing and milky and melded well with the generally salty nature of Las Delicias' food. On the drink front, we were glad to find an El Topo Chico carbonated mineral water ($1) on the shelves of the mercado, a legendary beverage that has been bottled out of Monterrey, Mexico, since 1895.

Las Delicias
3401 Pike Ave.
North Little Rock
812-4876

Quick bite

The top display freezer by the checkout contains Arcoiris popsicles made with mango, coconut, tamarind, strawberry and kiwi, among others. If you get there early enough, you can peruse the glass case of pan dulce (sweet breads) coated in sprinkles, sugar dust, and brushed with butter: very easy on the eyes.

Hours

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Other info

Imported and domestic beers, credit cards accepted.
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