Not too long ago, I had some complaints about the available burrito options in our city. After a rather disappointing venture to Blue Coast Burrito, I was left lamenting the lack of exceptional big, fat, stuffed burritos. But if you’ve driven down the West Little Rock side of Rodney Parham Rd recently, you may have noticed a small sign announcing the eminent arrival of a new “California-style” taco and tamale joint on a corner outside the Market Place Shopping Center. This past weekend, I found their sign announcing that they were “now open,” and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would make an obligatory trip inside of Little Rock’s latest taco shop, “Rock ‘N Tacos and Tamales.”
Rock ‘N Tacos and Tamales is situated just a couple doors down from the Lilly’s Dim Sum/B-Side folks. Walking in, the place is clean, tidy, and casual. It’s an order-at-the-counter, assemble-to-order establishment (not unlike Chipotle or Blue Coast), in which you select your salad, burrito, or tacos and the staff put together the food to your specifications. Typically, I’m not so keen on these sorts of operations. I’m generally turned off by the idea of my food sitting around in plastic containers all day waiting to be carelessly slapped together at my beck and call. I understand this must be done to some degree in most restaurants, every dish requires a bit of per-order prep work, but I really don’t think it’s too much to ask to have my steak, chicken, pork, and vegetables cooked to order…it’s being done at thousands of Mexican joints across the country. The assemble-to-order places are clearly built for speed and efficiency, and for many, it’s working out fairly well for them.
Despite my preconceived bias towards such restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised by my meal at Rock ‘N Tacos. There’s room for improvement, for sure, but I noticed the owner asking patrons for their sincere opinions and suggestions, a good sign that they’re willing to weed out any flaws.
The menu at Rock ‘N Tacos is not particularly astonishing. It’s the sort of Mexican food that appeals to diners who are generally less eager to seek out more authentic options from some of the more unsavory Mexican restaurants and taquerias. Here, the offerings are safe and not unexpected, but that’s not to say everything is dreadful. You’ll find big taco salads in crispy fried flour tortilla bowls, street tacos, chimichangas, cerviche, and burritos. As the name implies, they make their tamales in house, but unfortunately they did not have them when I visited. Premature opening? Perhaps. You’d think if you were opening a tamale house, you’d want to actually serve tamales on the first or second day of business. But this being “California-style” cuisine, I had to go with a big burrito as well as a fish taco, the two items I equate most with Baja style cooking.