When last we visited The Fold in Riverdale for a review, the place hadn’t been open for very long — and it showed. We left less than impressed with our meal, although we found the converted garage setting of the restaurant to be quirky and fun. We always hoped that The Fold would get on steady footing and turn into a Little Rock great. Three years after that initial review, we’re here to say that they’ve done that and more. From tacos to tamales to a lineup of killer appetizers, The Fold has developed one of the most flavorful menus in Little Rock, wiping away our initial impression and replacing it with a great deal of respect.
On a recent lunch trip, we started with an order of the Habanero Queso ($6), and the creamy, spicy cheese dip had us sweating in the best way possible. This is queso like we like it: thick enough to coat a chip and spicy. There are other things to dip your chips into at The Fold, but with queso this good it’s hard to branch out and order them.
We followed up the queso with a Steak Torta ($11.50), and when the monster sandwich hit the table, we wished we hadn’t filled up so much on chips. The sandwich was a perfect combination of tender steak, chimichurri, pickled onions and pico de gallo, all piled so high on a toasted roll that it took a bit of study to figure out how to eat the thing. The ample ingredients and large portions are a theme that carries through the entire menu, making The Fold one of the best values for lunch or dinner in the area.
On a return trip for dinner, we opted to begin our meal with the Mexican Street Corn ($6), and once we took the first bite of roasted corn coated in Mexican crema, cheese and a splash of lime, we were glad we did. Again, the portion here was enormous: seven pieces of corn, all well roasted and covered in cheese and spices. It’s a messy dish to eat, but when it tastes this good, it’s worth having to mop your entire face with a napkin.
To go along with our corn, we ordered two tacos from the a la carte menu: the Puerco Verde ($3.25) and the Cholula Pescado ($3.25). The former was a tasty mix of crispy shredded pork, topped with onions, cilantro and green salsa. The flavor was nice, if a touch under-salted, but a quick visit from the shaker on the table made everything just fine. The pescado taco was a spicy mix of fish and mango slaw, and while normally sweet and spicy aren’t our thing, we enjoyed every bite. Both tacos came in soft corn tortillas that didn’t disintegrate on us like we feared.
For our main course, we first sampled the Chicken Burrito ($10), and while there was nothing groundbreaking about it, it was delicious. The shredded chicken was well seasoned and moist, and we thought it was a nice touch that the kitchen toasted the burrito on either side, adding a bit of crunch to the tortilla. Like everything else, this was a massive dish, and we were impressed that The Fold doesn’t cheat on its burritos by overstuffing them with rice.
The highlight of the night, though, was the Beef Tenderloin Tamales ($11), which placed three handmade tamales atop a bed of black beans and rice, then drenched everything in more of that tasty habanero queso. After eating about half of the dish, we were stuffed, but everything tasted so good that we just kept eating until every bite of those tamales was gone. Chicken, vegetarian and barbecue tamales are available, and our experience with the beef choice gave us extremely high hopes for the rest of the selection.
We never mind having to go back on a review and change our tune. The restaurant business is one where kitchens can rise and fall over the years, and it’s always nice to see a kitchen really come into its own. The Fold has certainly done that in the past few years, developing a repertoire of solid, unique Mexican-inspired cuisine that delights with both flavors and portion size. We’ve turned from skeptics into believers — and it’s been a tasty and wonderful experience being proven wrong.
The Fold: Botanas & Bar
3501 Old Cantrell Road
The Fold has become a Little Rock hot spot for cocktails for a very good reason: The drinks are fantastic. Rum, tequila or bourbon — just pick your poison and there’s something tasty waiting for you. The craft beer selection is respectable, too.
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
All major CC, full bar.