Marc Laney

With all the talk of the Census and what population and demographic shifts mean for Central Arkansas, the Arkansas Times embarked this month on an equally important measure of the health of our community: a survey of taco trucks. Turns out Little Rock (and to a lesser extent North Little Rock) taco truck culture is booming. When we last rounded up mobile purveyors of authentic Mexican food in 2010, there were about 15 trucks regularly found in Southwest Little Rock. Today, there are closer to 30, and that number is growing all the time. Even more exciting, many of the newer entrants into the market have introduced new cuisine. There are now Honduran, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran and Venezuelan trucks. Other trucks have branched out beyond the typical taqueria menu, offering specialty plates of food you’d typically only find in a restaurant (at Sabor Latino on Baseline, you can order mojarra frita, a whole fried tilapia served with salad and fried plantains). At others you’ll find decadent ingenuity: Los Elotes sells a bag of Doritos, cut lengthwise, with cucumber salad piled high on the chips. La Autentica offers red tacos dipped in guajillo oil before they’re crisped up on the griddle. You’ll be a hero at your next party if you pick up a quesabirria “pizza” from Tacos El Gordo in North Little Rock. 

That’s not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with standard taco truck fare. At just about every truck on our list, you can find the humble and delicious street taco: a warm corn tortilla, topped with the meat of your choice, onions and cilantro. Most also sell tortas, burritos and quesadillas. Some have helpful photo menus; some don’t have menus at all. For non-Spanish speakers, we’ve put together a helpful glossary

Advertisement

No matter where you live in Central Arkansas, there’s a truck relatively close to you, but to truly experience the riches of the taco truck scene, head to Southwest Little Rock and Baseline, Geyer Springs and Stagecoach roads. 

We’ve divided the trucks below between those that stay in the same spot and those that move around. But a word of caution on that and the hours listed. Trucks break down. Owners get sick or go on vacation. We asked someone running a truck last week what its hours were. All day every day except this weekend, he said. Many are active on Facebook or Instagram, so check before you head out. (Several have Facebook pages with long URLs with lots of numerals in them; a quick search should turn them up.) More trucks accept cards today than they did a decade ago, but it’s still a good idea to bring cash just in case. Also, we made efforts to round up all the active trucks, but we inevitably missed some. Let us know who we overlooked — and happy eating!

Advertisement

Stationary

picture of El Jalepeno in Little RockStephanie Smittle
El Jalapeno

El Jalapeño
9203 Chicot Road

Perched on a concrete pad in a gravel lot next to Cloverdale Liquor in Southwest Little Rock, El Jalapeño seems to have built a following despite being in such close proximity to a gem like La Regional, a popular mercado and panaderia on Baseline Road. When we visited, a car or truck would ease into El Jalapeño’s lot every couple minutes to pass some money into the window and collect a takeout order. If you want to eat on site, though, there’s a little picnic table on the covered porch of a small trailer that sits behind the food truck. (But don’t even think about having a cigarette after your meal; those porch shelves double as a utility closet, we noticed, full of gas cans and oil and other maintenance miscellany.) And there’s a huge menu to choose from: fresh strawberries with whipped cream, chili cheese Takis, jalapeño hot dogs, tortas, duro con verdura (a cool salad served on a big puffy flatbread), street-corn-in-a-cup, enchiladas, taquitos, flautas, gooey Doritos nachos, churros, tostada de cameron, American concession stand staples like burgers and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and gigantic “machete” tacos — so named because the tortillas they come in are long and narrow, making the taco look like a small sword. Our favorite, though, were the four mild chicken tamales we ordered, generously filled and a steal at $5. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 501-772-7471. SS

Advertisement
picture of Gusto Casero in Little Rock and LandmarkRachael Borné
GUSTO CASERO

Gusto Casero
4211 Arch Street 

This may be the only spot to get real Puerto Rican food in Central Arkansas. The food truck is located just south of Little Rock, in the small community of Landmark, along Arch Street. A friendly couple runs this outfit — Andrea from Puerto Rico and Tanya from Mexico — and their menu reflects a delicious fusion of their respective cultures. The Mexican fare includes classic offerings like tacos, taquitos, quesadillas, burritos, nachos and tortas. The Puerto Rican dishes feature plantains heavily, both sweet and savory varieties, and lots of delightful fried starches like sorullitos (sweet corn and cornmeal fried for dipping in a mayo-ketchup sauce), papa rellena (fried ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with ground beef), and mofongo (fried green plantains mashed into a dense ball, served with savory broth). The truck itself is a fire-engine-red trailer adorned with adorable stickers and tropical imagery. There’s shade and a picnic table for eating. 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. 501-475-5650, facebook.com/GustoCaser022. R. Borné

K-Lientitos in Little Rock imageLindsey Millar
K-Lientitos

K-Lientitos
7123 Geyer Springs Road

This is an ideal spot to start with if you’re new to taco trucks. It’s parked in a long-closed Sonic, so there’s ample parking. The tidy menu has all the standard taqueria fare listed on the side of the truck in English and Spanish. That includes a nearly full complement of taco truck meats: asada, barbacoa, buche, cabeza, chicharron, chorizo, lengua, pastor, pollo and tripa. You can get those on tacos, tacos supreme (instead of simply meat, cilantro and onion, these come also with lettuce, cheese and crema), burritos, quesadillas, tortas, gorditas and sopes. On a recent visit, we got a pair of hefty chorizo tacos and two pastor gorditas for $10. The gorditas came with a thin layer of beans, shredded lettuce, cheese and crema squeezed between thick fried cornmeal cakes. Our lunch feast came with a smooth verde salsa and a punchy, smoky red sauce. K-Lientitos offers party platters and other catering options. No seating; you could find shade under the old Sonic awning. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sun. 501-475-6036 and on Facebook. LM

Advertisement
picture of La Autentica in Little Rock

La Autentica

La Autentica
4601 S. University Ave.

Taco trucks have become something of a weekday lunch staple in Central Arkansas, but Kathy and Co. at La Autentica have your weekend munchies locked down. Tucked away in an auto repair shop lot on University just south of Asher Avenue, this truck specializes in decadent birria tacos, loaded carne asada fries and “red tacos” — puffy, crispy tacos with your choice of filling, wrapped in a tortilla that’s dipped in a house-made guajillo oil before it goes on the griddle and gets gloriously flecked with toasted bits of cheese. Because they’re only open a few nights a week, everything is crisp and fresh, down to the crunchy slices of red radish that came alongside our red tacos and the feisty bright green salsa verde we watched being carried to the truck from the adjacent building in a blender carafe, mere moments before it appeared in our styrofoam box. Also on the menu: tortas, nachos, quesadillas, plain ol’ street tacos and a California burrito whose contents include french fries. There are a few small shaded tables under the awning of a large building La Autentica parks beside, but you won’t have to worry about the blazing sun for most of the truck’s late-night hours of operation. When we visited in mid-August, the truck was scouting out a possible new location and was just beginning to try out its new Thursday hours, so your best bet is to call before you go. 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sun. and Thu. 501-734-9358, facebook.com/LaAutentica2016. SS

picture of La Fina Express in Little RockRachael Borné
La Fina Express

La Fina Express
8409 Geyer Springs Road

La Fina Express has been around for years, but recently took a one-year hiatus during the pandemic. This truck is a basic taqueria, and it’s parked outside an accompanying brick-and-mortar bodega that processes international money transfers and sells sundries. The menu includes a couple of special meat options, including birria. No seating or shade. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, 501-562-2272, facebook.com/lafinaexpress. R. Borné

picture of Lady TacosGuy Lancaster
Lady Tacos

Lady Tacos
10120 Colonel Glenn Road

“This isn’t right,” I thought as I walked up to Lady Tacos, which sits in the parking lot of Horticare Landscape & Management Co. off Colonel Glenn. I thought this was a taco truck, but the exterior featured pictures of candy bars, hot dogs, chicken tenders, crinkle-cut fries, barbecue, popcorn, etc. But as I drew closer, I could see the pictures of Mexican food on one window and the marker-board menu on the other, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This wasn’t going to be county fair fare after all.

The menu featured the typical array of taco truck specialities. I was wanting something fairly basic, so I ordered a barbacoa burrito for myself and three shrimp tacos for my wife. My burrito was a hefty meal, stuffed with exquisitely tender meat, grilled onions and peppers, and corn, all doused with a delicious cheese sauce. It was exactly the kind of meal that you consume with great rapidity just because it tastes so great and then suddenly, upon finishing, creates the need for a nap. But the cheese sauce is so nice that you end up rooting around the kitchen for a few extra tortilla chips just to clean the plate, compounding the damage. 

As far as the shrimp tacos go, well, I’ll know something’s not up to snuff if my wife ever says, “Here, you can have a bite.” There were some grilled onions on the side, and as she believes onions are best applied in moderation, she did offer me those, but not a bite of the tacos. She just sat there, enraptured, chewing away and saying, “These… are… so… good. Best shrimp tacos ever!” Maybe next time, I’ll order a few for myself. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 501-410-0791 and on Facebook. GL

picture of Los Elotes in Little RockRhett Brinkley
LOS ELOTES

Los Elotes
5295 Baseline Road

Los Elotes aka Elotes Peter is one of four taco trucks on Baseline Road within a mile radius that I saw on a recent Friday. It stands out in part because it’s orange and because of the wide variety of street food the truck offers. Several people lined up for lunch or snacks while I was there. I saw a man on a lunch break grabbing some tacos and a mother getting her kids a couple of icy fruit drinks while she mixed up a cup of Mexican street corn for herself. There are photos of menu items on posters attached to the truck for easy navigation. Fruit cups, mangonadas, milkshakes, nachos served in chip bags, noodles and more traditional fare like burritos, tacos and tortas are on display. One thing was certain: I couldn’t go to a restaurant called Los Elotes or “street corn on the cob” and not order corn. It’s served two ways: elote corn (on the cob, slathered with mayo, parmesan cheese and chili powder) and esquite desgranado (the same but in a cup). There’s no seating at Los Elotes, so to prevent a mess in my car or on my face, I got the cup. The “Ricos Dorilicos” enticed even though it looked like a concoction of unidentifiable bite-size snacks filling up all the empty space that one finds after opening a bag of chips. 

The corn was a hit — sweet, piping hot, cheesy, offset by the tart flavor from the mayonnaise. The Dorilocos was healthier than I imagined. It was essentially a refreshing cucumber salad that you have to eat in order to partake in the Doritos that await you at the bottom of the bag. I couldn’t put it down, and I also couldn’t seem to make any headway. When I finally made my way down to the Doritos, the vinegary cucumbers and cabbage mingled magically with the artificial nacho cheese. Perhaps the street food snack was invented as a way to get kids to eat their vegetables. Brilliant. The more traditional fare (carne asada tacos, pollo burrito) did not disappoint. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon., Tue., Thu.; 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Fri-Sat.; 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sun. 501-786-3733, facebook.com/1515pes. RB

picture of Los PaisesRachael Borné
Los Paises

Los Paises
7301 Geyer Springs Road

One of several taquerias huddled together on the stretch of Geyer Springs between 65th Street and Baseline, this truck serves up tacos with a great variety of meats (try the campechano, which is an asado and chorizo mix; or the suadero, which is fatty cow belly), and they’re dirt cheap at only $2 a piece. The quesadillas are also notable, and are generously stuffed with any meat of your choosing. Tacos come with three sauces: a fresh salsa verde, a spicy chipotle and a creamy avocado puree (my favorite). Los Paises advertises an amazing “taquiza” deal, a platter of 30 tacos, which they whip up with just 15 minutes notice. Definitely the catering pick for your next office party. Parked in a gravel lot adjacent to Oasis Nightclub, no seating or shade. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sun. 501-298-5572. R. Borné 

picture of Pupusas y Antojitos Genesis in Little RockRachael Borné
Pupusas y Antojitos Genesis

Pupusas y Antojitos Genesis
4508 Baseline Road

This is a newer food truck offering Salvadoran specialties  that opened right before the pandemic hit. The truck is extremely pleasing to behold — painted orange and blue and yellow with funky lettering that heralds the word “antojitos,” which translates as cravings. The menu includes a long list of pupusa fillings, then 10 distinct dishes of varying heft and price-point. Among them: yuca con chicharrón (super starchy potato-like veggie with fried pork belly), tostadas de plátano (fried savory plantains), elotes locos (crazy corn — aka corn on the cob — smothered in queso fresco and salsas). Each dish is served with curito, the traditional Salvadoran slaw, but Genesis does it super spicy, and adds some beets in for good measure. Located in an old filling station lot, with a large shade covering. 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 501-454-0872. R. Borné

picture of Sabor Latino in Little RockLindsey Millar
Sabor Latino

Sabor Latino
7513 Baseline Road

The day I visited Sabor Latino, always parked behind the Twice the Ice across the street from La Regional Panaderia, it was pouring rain. But that didn’t stop a flood of customers pulling up and scurrying to the limited shelter of the pop-up awning. The truck’s broad menu might have something to do with its popularity. “Sabor” means flavor in Spanish and Sabor Latino goes well beyond typical taqueria fare with a dozen or so Central American specialities. Those include several fried plantain dishes (pollo con tajadas and tajadas locas), pupusas, a traditional Honduran breakfast plate (desayuno tradicional catracho), baleadas, Honduran tacos (rolled and fried like taquitos) and pechuga a la plancha (citrus-marinated griddled chicken with beans and rice). I got the enchiladas Hondureñas, which didn’t at all resemble their Tex-Mex cousin. These were fried corn tortillas topped with stewed chicken, shredded cabbage, sliced tomato, hard-boiled egg and avocado slivers, doused in a vinegary red sauce and served with a pile of purple pickled onions. It was a mound of food; way more than I could eat. The truck offers several different flavors of aguas frescas. The pineapple was some of the best I’ve ever had. It was sweet, but not overly so, and obviously fresh — I could taste the little pineapple chunks. No seating or shade. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 501-231-2580. LM

San Felipe Food imageRachael Borné
San Felipe Food

San Felipe Food
6424 Geyer Springs Road

San Felipe Food is a brand-new enterprise, opened in the summer of 2021 in the parking lot of its namesake business, San Felipe Tire Services. It’s tough to spot from Geyer Springs, so look for the bright blue auto shop on the corner of 65th Street. This Salvadoran truck has a pretty short menu, including burritos, tortas, tacos and pupusas, but everything is tasty, and the pupusas are definitely something to write home about. 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily. 501-648-6173. R. Borné

picture of Tacos Atilano

Tacos Atilano

Tacos Atilano
8703 Geyer Springs Road
3501 Pike Ave., North Little Rock

Tacos Atilano is about to add a third location to its mobile fleet, which currently operates on Pike Avenue in North Little Rock and Geyer Springs in the Los Gallos Taqueria parking lot. As of this writing, the third truck could open in Sherwood as early as next week, an employee said. In addition to the standard taco fillings, Taco Atilano has suadero (beef belly brisket) and cabeza (beef head). These tacos are a little on the smaller side, so if you normally get three, go ahead and get a fourth. Why not? Grande burritos and quesadillas are available, as well as tortas. You can get a four-taco combination with rice and beans for $10 or a quesadilla combo with rice and beans for $9.50. Earlier this year, Tacos Atilano began offering a “taquiza,” a party platter served in a pizza box with 25 tacos skillfully arranged with grilled peppers and onions and more than enough salsa to go around. You can order from both locations at the number listed, and the box takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes to prepare depending on how busy it is. You can order a variety of meats as we did for the office. The verde salsa is great, and if someone showed up with this spread at a post-pandemic (so, 2025?) Super Bowl party, it wouldn’t matter which team wins, you’ll all win. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. 870-877-1152. RB

QUESABIRRIA PIZZA: From Tacos El Gordo pictureBrian Chilson
QUESABIRRIA PIZZA: From Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo
5400 JFK Blvd., North Little Rock 

Some of the best tacos on the north side of the river can be found in the Cupid’s Lingerie parking lot on JFK Boulevard at Jessica Villanueva’s food truck Tacos El Gordo. Villanueva’s late father Fidel Villanueva, nicknamed “El Gordo” by the grandkids, co-owned K-Lientitos Taqueria food truck on Geyer Springs, which is still in operation. Jessica Villanueva said she used to stop by her father’s food truck to help out and that’s how she learned the business. Her brother Fidel Villanueva Jr. operates the Taco Mexicano food truck on Crystal Hill Road in North Little Rock. 

El Gordo’s taco varieties include asada, pastor, chorizo, campechano, pollo, barbacoa, chicharrón verde y rojo, lengua, tripa and quesabirria. Other menu items include quesadillas, tortas, sopes, gorditas and burritos. El Gordo has recently started offering a quesabirria pizza ($35). It comes in a large pizza box and is served with consomme, chips, cheese sauce, sour cream, hot sauce and grilled peppers and onions. It’s the heaviest pizza I’ve ever carried. Structured like a quesadilla, a large flour tortilla is covered with a layer of birria meat and cheese, then another tortilla goes on top and the process gets repeated and then it’s topped with one more tortilla. It’s rich; one slice is substantial and delectable. If you want to be the life of the party, show up with one of these. It didn’t last long at our office. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sat. 501-766-4313, facebook.com/TacosElGordo.Villanueva. RB

Taco Mexicano imageAustin Bailey
Taco Mexicano

Taco Mexicano
6012 Crystal Hill Road, North Little Rock

Quesadillas are the specialty, the darling woman taking orders at Taco Mexicano told me, but there was another item on their menu that was literally calling my name. The “gringa,” she explained, is a bit like a hamburger, except that instead of buns, it uses fried tortillas. And the filling isn’t limited to beef, but can be any of the taco fillings they had on offer. An order of both dishes, plus a Diet Coke, ran $15 and was enough food for three very hungry people. 

The gringa — stuffed with chicken marinated in bright, tangy seasonings, with fresh cilantro and just enough cheese to hold it all together — was good. But she was right, the quesadilla was special. Enormous enough for two, it was hefty with chicken chunks and grilled to brown-speckled perfection. The zingy green sauce is made with green tomatoes rather than the typical tomatillos, which gives it a fruity flavor. It’s delicious. Be sure to ask for extra. 

Situated in a gravel lot next to Red Devil Liquor, this taco truck overlooking the intersection of Crystal Hill Road and I-40 makes up in convenience what it lacks in ambience. But there’s a picnic table and peppy Latin American music playing loud enough to compete with the traffic noise if you just can’t wait until you get home to dig in. 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat. 501-554-4327, facebook.com/tacomexicanoNLR, instagram.com/tacomexicanonlr. AB

Tamales Elena García imageGuy Lancaster
Tamales Elena García

Tamales Elena García
8122 Stagecoach Road

The stretch of Stagecoach Road immediately east of Interstate 430 has been developing into something of a corridor of Mexican cuisine these last few years. There are a number of brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area stretching from the interstate to the county line, such as La Tapatia, Las Palmas, Cantina Cinco de Mayo, La Familia Antojitos Mexicanos and La Villa Mexican Restaurant. But added to those options are now a few different food trucks, including one devoted to tamales.

Tamales Elena García is a little red truck situated in the lot between ABC Salvage & Scrap Metal and Casa Blanca Granite, Marble & Tile. It can be just a tad intimidating to approach if, like me, you’ve only got a limited bit of Spanish under your belt. Although the owner speaks wonderful English, the menu is all in Spanish. I didn’t know that tamales could be broken down into such categories as tamales de elote (sweet corn tamales), tamales en hojas de platano (tamales in plantain leaves), and tamales en hojas de maiz (tamales in corn leaves). Stunned by so much variety, I simply ordered a few from each category, and then added some queso empanadas to the mix. Tamales Elena García also offers picarditas (corn masa cakes) and flautas de pollo, enmoladas, garnachas and tostadas, as well as various drinks and desserts. A very thorough menu for such a small truck.

I would be hard-pressed to match what I was eating to what I ostensibly ordered, aside from the fact that I had one kind of spicy pork, one more mild chicken and one with vegetables. Each one was soft and full of its own flavors. The empanadas were fluffy, slightly crunchy, cheesy and accompanied by sour cream, tomato slices, avocado and onion. Everything was delightful.

Sometimes I think I should learn Spanish to acclimate myself better to the food culture evolving in Little Rock, but I have never gone wrong bumbling haphazardly into culinary opportunities like this. Ignorance can indeed be bliss if it means picking tamales at random from a menu. There is no wrong choice here. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat. 501-349-04333. GL

Taqueria Gloria Comida Mexicana imageAustin Bailey
Taqueria Gloria Comida Mexicana

Taqueria Gloria Comida Mexicana
7315 Geyer Springs

Non-Spanish-speakers, take heart. While there’s no real menu, no helpful photos nor illustrations of the food on offer — nothing, in fact, but two handwritten lists of various meaty fillings taped to the window — the delightful family that runs Taqueria Gloria Comida Mexicana has a sixth sense about these things. We simply gave our biggest smiles and read off a few of the words we recognized: camarones, asada, torta. They smiled back. Ten minutes later, we were blessed with a tall stack of styrofoam clamshells full of surprises. 

The asada tacos came blanketed in cilantro, enough that I felt like a good mom for providing what was certainly a full serving of leafy greens. “There’s a lot of meat in these, and they’re not too messy,” my son reported. The box brimmed with enough filling to turn the four tacos we’d ordered into eight without stretching (each taco comes wrapped in two soft corn tortillas), and my 13-year-old scarfed down all of them, leaving only the squeezed lime rinds behind. 

My 10-year-old claimed the steak torta was also generously sized, probably enough for at least two. Slices of picture-perfect avocados peeked out of the sides, along with fresh and crunchy lettuce and tomato. No chunks of meat rejected for being too tough or fatty, and no toppings fished out and put to the side. He ate the whole thing. “Exquisite,” he reported.

The best of our mystery boxes contained three shrimp tacos, simply done and especially tasty with Gloria’s tangy green salsa drizzled on top. If that sounds good to you, just walk up to the food truck in the Mercado San Jose parking lot, say “camarones” and smile. 

(Later, a colleague with more taco truck experience visited and reported that Gloria sells tlayudas, giant corn tortillas popular in Oaxaca, which come topped with meat, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cilantro and melted Oaxacan cheese. It’s like a Mexican pizza.)

There are no picnic tables around, but there are plenty of parking spaces and a lawn with a bit of shade if you’re up for a picnic. Gloria has horchata to drink, but you can easily dip into Mercado San Jose for cold drinks and some of their bakery fare for dessert. Note that among all the trucks, Gloria stays open the latest on weekends. 9 a.m.-10 or 11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 9 a.m.-2-3 a.m. Fri.-Sat. 501-413-6276 and on Facebook. AB

Taqueria Guadalupana imageGuy Lancaster
Taqueria Guadalupana

Taqueria Guadalupana
7000 Colonel Glenn Road

For the longest time, Taqueria Guadalupana was to us just “the taco truck.” Long, long before the explosion of the local food truck scene, Taqueria Guadalupana had been parked there in a lot at the intersection of 36th and Colonel Glenn, just downstream from Boyle Park. It was there when I moved to this part of Little Rock back in 2007, but a friend of mine says that this one truck has been here since the 1990s. She calls it the city’s “original taco truck.” 

The wife and I used to frequent it back when we moved to the area, delighted by the novelty of food we could deem more “authentic” than that offered up by many restaurants at the time. Everything we tried was excellent: tacos, burritos, gorditas, quesadillas, tortas, and more. But in recent years, especially with the rise of food truck culture in the city, we began to find our novelties elsewhere. So going back, one Wednesday evening, was like returning home and wondering why we had stayed away so long.

I was after some burritos, which I remembered being particularly good here. I ordered asada for my wife and attempted to order tripa for myself, only to be told, “We are out of tripa.” This raised some questions, namely: Who the hell is eating up all the tripe? But I spared the ladies behind the counter my interrogation and just got the chicken. Each burrito comes densely packed with meat, beans, rice and cilantro, accompanied by a side of beans, Mexican rice and a roasted jalapeno half. “I’d forgotten how good this was,” said my wife, biting into hers, and I felt the same way. This is one of Little Rock’s better burritos: the beans were a multi-textured treat, not just overcooked mush, and the rice was a perfectly textured delight. But as wonderful as this all was, it was also a lot of food, and eventually my wife handed over her plate and said those words that warm a married man’s heart: “I’m full. Can you finish this?” 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 501-247-2952, facebook.com/guadalupanatacos. GL

picture of Taqueria Jalisco San JuanGuy Lancaster
Taqueria Jalisco San Juan

Taqueria Jalisco San Juan
11000-11042 W. Markham St.

I needed a bottle of sparkling wine, and I needed some lunch. For these two birds, the one stone was Colonial Wine & Spirits on West Markham, in the parking lot of which stands Taqueria Jalisco San Juan. It’s probably the taco truck most familiar to Little Rock residents. Having stood there for ages, Taqueria Jalisco San Juan offers a fairly basic menu (tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and burritos) and pretty quick service. So after my liquor store run, I walked on over.

Now, my wife always says the same thing: “Get me three tacos of some kind.” And she never shares her tacos. If I wanted some, I was going to have to get my own. So I ordered three campechanos tacos and three lengua tacos for myself, guessing which three she would want. Tongue can be rather chewy if done improperly, but the meat on my tacos was delightfully tender, and if not the most flavorful, did carry the salsa well. My wife did let me have just a taste of the campechanos, which was much more robustly spiced. These tacos are smaller than usual, something which has drawn the ire of several online reviewers, but they are flavorful and delivered with rapidity.

Taqueria Jalisco San Juan offers the usual array of American and Mexican soft drinks, and horchata, served iced in a large Styrofoam cup. 501-541-5533 GL

Taqueria Lupita imageLindsey Millar
Taqueria Lupita

Taqueria Lupita
4920 W. 65th Street

Less than a year old, this truck is tucked away in a corner of an alignment and brake shop. It’s standard taqueria fare. The pictures on the side of the truck, of tacos, tortas, burritos, quesadillas, taquitos and agua fresca, are the closest thing to a menu you’ll find. But owner Kevin Cartajena is friendly and voluble, and talked me into the day’s special, a fried chicken leg (drumstick and thigh still connected), to go along with the al pastor and asada tortas I picked up for a lunch meeting. Pollo, chorizo, chicharron and buche are the other meat options. The sandwiches came with a tangy hot salsa verde and a smoky red salsa cremosa, so you can mix and match. I should’ve remembered that a torta is a meal unto itself, but the chicken was still delightful hours later when I pulled it from the fridge. Melon (cantaloupe) was the agua fresca of the day when I visited. It came in a massive Styrofoam cup and was a touch sweeter than my ideal agua fresca, but still delicious. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 501-551-0581 and on Facebook. LM

Taqueria Samantha 2 imageJason Woods
Taqueria Samantha 2

Taqueria Samantha 2
7521 Geyer Springs Road

The Taqueria Samantha food trucks have been a Little Rock favorite for more than 17 years, but even long-time customers might discover something new and wonderful on the menu. The birria tacos are a new hot seller. Tortillas stuffed with slow-cooked beef or chicken are dipped in the flavorful meat broth left over, then toasted a little longer than your average taco. After, mozzarella cheese is melted on top and accompanied by onions and cilantro. The result is glorious — both juicy and crunchy, if a little messy. And you even get your own cup of broth for dipping. Customers interested in a twist on U.S. street food can try the Mexican hot dog, topped with avocado, cheese, bacon, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapenos, as well as ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard. For those pining for the old standbys, though, don’t worry. Crowd pleasers like the taco supreme and quesadillas are still available. If you have an ambitious stomach, the burritos are the size of a sack of flour, packed generously with tender meat and other fresh ingredients and wrapped in a warm, homemade tortilla. Taqueria Samantha 2 is one of three trucks in the Taqueria Samantha fleet, but the only one now in operation. 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Sun. 501-744-0680 and on Facebook. JW

Taqueria San Diego imageGuy Lancaster
Taqueria San Diego

Taqueria San Diego
7216 Colonel Glenn Road

This little orange box of a food truck parked in front of a defunct garage on Colonel Glenn offers standard taqueria fare: tacos, burritos, nachos, tortas and a dressed-up version of a hot dog. I chose the Chile Mexicano, which included a mix of grilled chicken, beef, peppers and onions topped with cheese, served with rice and beans and four corn tortillas. This constituted a rather hearty meal, delicious and filling. The man behind the counter had asked if I wanted it spicy, and I assured him that I did, but perhaps he didn’t believe me because I was already sweating up a storm in the late July heat. However, my wife did part with some of the red salsa that came with her trio of tacos, which offered a little extra heat for my palate. 11 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 501-817-6341. GL 

Yolanda Kitchen imageGuy Lancaster
Yolanda Kitchen

Yolanda Kitchen
6024 Stagecoach Road

The pricing at Yolanda Kitchen, located right in front of the departed but not forgotten Stagecoach Grocery and Deli, is simple — everything listed is $10. My wife went for the mole de pollo, while I got the puerco con salsa verde (pork in green sauce). Although there are a few tables set up inside the former Stagecoach Grocery, we got ours to go — and a good thing, too, because my wife was covered in mole sauce not two minutes after we set up on our back deck. “This is so good!” she said, slurping it up, and not sharing. Her dish included two chicken drumsticks swimming in mole, while mine consisted of tender chunks of pork with a mild but nonetheless flavorful salsa verde. Each order came with a side of orange-colored rice a little stickier than the kind found at most Tex-Mex places, as well as a side of beans. But the real star of the meal was the tortillas. We each had a packet of five house-made tortillas wrapped in foil, which remained piping hot even after the short drive home.

The next time I made a visit, my wife sent me with instructions to get her “some kind of tacos.” So I ordered the taco loco, which ended up being one massive tortilla loaded down with different kinds of meat, potatoes and vegetables, all topped with a grilled cactus. She had to whittle away at it some before she could even risk trying to fold up that tortilla in her hands, and by that point, she was already stuffed and so passed it my way. I had just scarfed down my order of papas con chorizo, which was a delightful mixture of very soft potatoes, grilled onions and peppers, and chorizo. Open Fri.-Tue. 501-777-2899, 501-744-7299, facebook.com/karlavale867. GL

Brian Chilson
BALEADA CON TODO IN PROCESS: Owner Luis Vasquez prepares his signature dish.

Mobile

El Sur

El Sur isn’t just my favorite food truck in Little Rock. I think it’s the best food in town. I try to get lunch from the truck at least once a week. When I don’t, visions of El Sur’s Honduran street food specialities float through my dreams. Luis Vasquez, a native of Honduras who came to Arkansas to volunteer for Heifer International, opened the truck in 2019 with his husband, Darren Strayhorn. They specialize in baleadas, a Honduran sort of burrito. Con todo (the only way to order it), it comes in a large flour tortilla layered with refried and pureed red beans, crema, cheese, meat, pickled onions, chunks of avocado and fried plantain. For a long time, I couldn’t order anything other than an al pastor baleada — the pork marinated in pineapple and crisped up on the griddle is perfection when paired with the con todo fixin’s. But I finally forced myself to branch out and have since become addicted to the arepas — thick cornmeal pancakes, folded and filled with ample and fresh guacamole, meat and pico de gallo. The street tacos, served on fresh yellow corn tortillas, are predictably also excellent. Al pastor, carnitas, carne asada, pollo asado, cauliflower chorizo, nopales and birria are the protein options for each dish. And look out for the specials, which have included yuca fries, fresh fruit cups sprinkled with Tajín seasoning and lime, and breakfast versions of all the entrees. Lately, Vasquez and Strayhorn have stuck pretty reliably to parking at Rock Town Distillery, Bernice Garden, The Rail Yard and the White Water Tavern Market. Bring something to read or be ready to play on your phone. I’m not the only El Sur devotee; the truck gets swarmed often, but it’s worth the wait. 501-773-4311,facebook.com/elsurstreetfoodco, instagram.com/elsurstreetfoodco. LM

La Casa De Mi Abuelita Maw Maw’s House imageBrian Chilson
La Casa De Mi Abuelita Maw Maw’s House

La Casa De Mi Abuelita Maw Maw’s House

La Casa De Mi Abuelita Maw Maw’s House started popping up in Little Rock last fall at The Rail Yard and Bernice Garden and was my introduction to quesabirria tacos. My first impression — mind blowing. 2021 Diamond Chef winner Geovanny Villagran, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, grew up learning to cook from his grandmother. Birria, a slow-cooked meat stew, and the foundation for quesabirria tacos, is said to have originated in Guadalajara. “The dish has been around Mexico for centuries,” Villagran told me in an interview this past spring. The tacos are constructed by dipping corn tortillas in the beef birria consomme, then they’re placed on the grill with cheese, stewed beef, pickled onion and cilantro. They’re served Instagram-ready with a side of beef consomme for dipping. When dining rooms were shut down in March of 2020, Villagran was laid off from the DoubleTree Hotel. He and his wife, Neena Villagran, started growing vegetables and raising cows, pigs and chickens so their food truck would be true farm to table. In addition to quesabirria, the truck offers cochinita pibil tacos (slow roasted pork butt), chicken tinga tacos (shredded chicken in red sauce) and grande quesadillas. We recommend the combo option because you don’t want to miss out on the rice and beans. The Villagrans have recently added a second truck built out from an old school bus. They are typically in Little Rock for lunches on Tuesdays at Bernice Garden and Saturdays at the Rail Yard and are frequently stationed in Sheridan at 424 S. Rock St. Check its schedule on Facebook before heading out. 501-231-6650, facebook.com/mawmawshousellc, instagram.com/mawmaws_house. RB

Lili's

Lili’s Mexican Street Food

Lili’s Mexican Street Food

Perhaps Little Rock’s newest taco truck, Lili’s has already developed a devoted following since opening in May. Patrick and Laura Ochoa, the husband and wife behind the truck, describe their food as farm-to-table Mexican street food. That often translates into dishes that look as good as they taste. Vegetarians will especially appreciate the chamiñones (mushrooms) and nopales (cactus with tomato, onion and cilantro) available as protein options for tacos, quesadillas or burritos. The gluten-free crowd can sub for chickpea or cassava flour tortillas, too. The California burrito — meat or veggies with french fries, pico de gallo, avocado, crema and cheese — is a decadent delight. So are the quesabirria tacos, served with a small cup of consomme for dipping. Lili’s also offers cochinita pibil, something of a novelty in the Central Arkansas truck scene. Lately, the Ochoas have been rolling out delicious looking specials, including chile rellenos and taquitos. 501-298-5600, facebook.com/lilispettaway, instagram.com/eat_lilis. LM 

Tacos de birria Mary imageRhett Brinkley
Tacos de birria Mary

Tacos de birria Mary 

Tacos de birria Mary was a stone’s throw away from Los Elotes, stationed along the north side of Baseline (you can’t miss it, there’s “birria” and “taco” banner flags stationed at both ends of the converted bus). Tacos Mary offers street tacos, quesabirria tacos, asada fries, burritos and quesadillas. The man working the window said the truck is at the Baseline location on Thursdays and Fridays. We tried a couple tacos and an order of the carne asada fries. The shoestring fries were covered with a modest amount of cheese, my preferred method so the fries retain their crispiness and you avoid a soggy mess. They’re also topped with carne asada, onions, tomatoes and cilantro and served with a side of sour cream. It’s a weighty dish, enough for two or three people, and would serve as a nice appetizer or side to the tacos. The menu on the side of the bus also presented some interesting drink options on weekends only, so I wasn’t able to get an agua fresca or tamarindo juice (similar to agua fresca but also flavored with tamarind —  a tropical plant that produces flavors popular in Mexican candy and drinks). 323-592-6104 and on Facebook. RB

Tacos Godoy imageRhett Brinkley
Tacos Godoy

Tacos Godoy

Next to the oil-slicked quesabirria trend sweeping the Central Arkansas food truck scene, Alejandro Gutierrez’s offerings at Tacos Godoy felt downright healthful. This kitschy turquoise food truck is a Central Arkansas favorite, appearing at Good Earth Garden Center, The Filling Station in North Little Rock and other spots in addition to its sometimes-home on Cantrell Road. When we visited in mid-August, Gutierrez was smiling through the food truck window at an open house for a charter school in the posh Wellington Hills neighborhood of West Little Rock while representatives from Alice 107.7-FM pumped music from a tent nearby. Black beans and fluffy red rice accompany the taco combos, and the family matriarch Sabina makes all the truck’s white corn tortillas by hand. We especially loved the tinga de pollo — shredded chicken slow-cooked in a mild, tangy tomato sauce, as well as the taco stuffed with calabacitas, a summery blend of squash, corn, tomato and onion. Also on the menu: aguas frescas, quesadillas and more. Tacosgodoylr.com, facebook.com/tacosgodoylr, 501-779-0806. SS

Tren Al Sur imageJason Woods
Tren Al Sur

Tren al Sur

The best-selling items on Tren al Sur’s menu of Venezuelan cuisine are the arepas, which are sort of like cornmeal griddle cakes split open and filled with whatever your heart desires. “You can eat all food with an arepa. It is maybe the most popular food in Venezuela,” said Ricardo Delgado, who operates Tren al Sur with his father, Enerio Delgado. “Like my dad says, you can eat it for breakfast, for lunch, in the night. It’s very good for all times of the day.” 

Tren al Sur opened a few years ago but closed at the start of the pandemic. After reopening in June 2021, Enerio Delgado is eager to reintroduce Little Rock to food from the country where he grew up.

“Venezuelan food is totally different from Mexican food,” said Enerio Delgado, cousin of Tren al Sur owners Mercedes and Consuelo Jaimes. “There are a lot of people in the United States who think Latinos are only from Mexico. And south of Mexico, there’s a lot to see of Latin America. There’s a lot of variety.” The name Tren al Sur (“train to the south”) is borrowed from a popular song and came from the desire to showcase a more South American flavor. 

For first-time patrons of Tren al Sur, the Delgados recommend the shredded beef and cheese arepa, which they note is particularly Venezuelan. Some great empanadas are also on the menu — go for the guayaba filling if you’re feeling dessert-ish. Or, if you’re particularly hungry, try the pabellón criollo, Venezuela’s national dish of shredded beef, black beans, white rice, sweet plantains and a fried egg on top. Don’t let the simple ingredient list fool you — it’s delicious.

Whatever you order, make sure to ask for both the tomato and creamy cilantro homemade salsas. The food is so full of flavor you don’t need them, but they’re so good you should get them anyway. Check facebook.com/trenalsurv for weekly schedules, 501-554-9358. JW