Posts Tagged shrimp

The Dish: Ensalada Del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

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Last Friday marked my third visit to the popular Heights Taco & Tamale Co. in the Heights neighborhood. Admittedly, I’ve still yet to try some of the more popular dishes like the tamales, cheese dip, Ark-Mex enchiladas, or the pulled pork tacos. My first visit was a quick, late evening pop-in to try the chocolate cake. The second time around, I sat at the bar and downed a plate of bean and cheese nachos.

So, here I was with part of my fam on a blistering hot early afternoon in Little Rock, and the thought of eating enchiladas and tacos was none too appealing. I scanned the menu in search of some lighter options and came across the Ensalada del Sol. The description hooked me, “Grilled Citrus Shrimp, Mango, Avocado, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette.”

The Yellow Rocket knows a thing or two about creating dynamite salads (see Big Orange and ZAZA), so I had high hopes for HTT’s Ensalada del Sol ($12.50). The salad was beautifully presented with skewers of medium-sized, well-seasoned shrimp resting atop a bed of crisp, chopped romaine lettuce. Perfectly ripe slices of avocado and mango sat on the edges. I quickly removed the tails of each shrimp, cut the mango and avocado into smaller pieces, poured the dressing, and tossed all of the ingredients together.

Ten minutes later, I had polished off the entire plate. In short, the salad was fantastic. The shrimp were cooked just right, and together with the fresh mango and creamy avocado, along with the light vinaigrette, provided for a perfect summertime lunch. It’s worth noting that the mango was so good, I almost ordered another side plate of the fruit.

Would I order this salad again? Absolutely. And it’s nice to know I can walk into a restaurant like this and be able to order a lighter option when I’m not in the mood to be weighed down by heavier bean and cheese based dishes.

Worth noting: On Friday at noon, our party of three was able to sit immediately. I mention this because waits during peak times have reached upwards of 1.5 hours. Also, the service was excellent throughout the meal.

Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
5805 Kavanaugh Blvd
501.313.4848
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (kitchen) 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (bar)

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Restaurant Review: El Palenque is the Real Deal

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I’ve been to El Palenque, the WLR taqueria tucked in the corner of an obscure strip center off Rodney Parham, several times over the past few years, and I’ve never had anything but excellent meals.

I felt it was time to write a formal review.

So, here we are.

The atmosphere: El Palenque’s atmosphere is everything you’d expect from a traditional taqueria—small, warm and inviting, with a steady flow of adoring customers. The restaurant walls have recently been painted with a beautiful mural that really gives the place a wonderful feel. It’s an open kitchen concept (which I love), so you’ll always see and hear the experienced chef banging around, doing his thing.

The service: Diners can expect prompt, attentive and friendly service. The chip basket is always full, as are the drinks, and the food never arrives more than 10-15 minutes after the order.

The cost: The prices are about as reasonable as it gets. Recently, our table of four got out of there for about $50, and that included tip and an order with three entrees, two a la carte items, guacamole and two alcoholic beverages. In short, given the high quality of food, the prices are more than fair at El Palenque. Heck, it’s downright inexpensive.

The food: The food! Yes, the most important part. What doesn’t this restaurant do well? If you dig guilty pleasure, high caloric gut bombs, opt for the chicken nachos. Split them with a tablemate or be prepared to jog ten miles the following day to sweat out the guilt. This monster plate of chips is covered in cheese sauce and all the standard fixings. Those with smaller appetites should consider ordering the shrimp burrito, which is filled with plump, yet not overcooked shrimp. Nothing annoys me more than those cooked-to-hell, pea-sized shrimp, and happily, you won’t find them at El Palenque. The tortas are excellent, as are the chicken verde enchiladas and the beef tacos. For lovers of spicier dishes, check out the Camarones ala Diabla, a plate filled with a smoky adobo sauce (which the chef can tailor to your desired level of heat). Finally, good guacamole is essential, but El Palenque misses the mark just a bit. While I enjoyed its chunkiness, this guac needed a heavy dose of salt and lime.

The verdict: El Palenque is not only one of the top Mexican food restaurants in Little Rock, it’s one of the top restaurants, period. Yes … El Palenque is that good! And if you don’t believe me, ask anyone of the dedicated neighborhood patrons who come back time after time.

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