We here at Eat Arkansas are big fans of Mexican food. It gets a lot of attention from us in our writing and restaurant reviews. It’s clearly a favorite around Little Rock as well, as there appears to be a new Mexican joint popping up every week. Now, I’m not entirely sure what would possess a new business owner to want to open another Mexican restaurant in a city that (at least in my opinion) seems so obviously saturated with them, but sure enough, they keep opening, and people keep eating at them…at least for a little while.
But something that’s still missing, in general, from our Mexican food offering is the promise of a great Mexican breakfast. There’re just not enough options. Personally, I find it more than a little depressing that we don’t have a great breakfast taco option. They’re cheap, simply prepared, filling, and often a highly rewarding experience. Usually they involve nothing more than a few freshly prepared, thick, hot flour tortillas filled with eggs, potatoes, beans, cheese, chorizo, or bacon. I’ve seen them served around town occasionally, but nothing notable to report yet.
I did happen upon the traditional Mexican breakfast offerings at Casa Manana recently, and was joined by former Houston resident, Kevin Shalin of The Mighty Rib, in their consumption. He, apparently, grew up eating this kind of stuff, and we were both eager to sample the menu at “The House of Tomorrow.”
Kevin had the classic Huevos Rancheros—fried eggs on a corn tortilla, smothered in “ranchero” sauce and melted cheese, with Mexican potatoes, beans, and a side of flour tortillas. He was kind enough let me sample a portion of this breakfast (without charging me his standard rate of $1.50 per forkful, for once), and I found the plate to be overall enjoyable. The egg was nicely done, with a soft texture and golden-yellow, runny yolk. The ranchero sauce was flavorful and creamy, adding a hint of spice without overwhelming the egg. The tortillas, unfortunately, did not appear to be house made—with the chewy, almost gummy, texture you often find in the store bought variety. Hot housemade flour tortillas are crucial in a good Mexican breakfast.
My dish was the Huevos Divorciados—two eggs on corn tortillas, with red salsa on half and green on the other—refried beans separating the two sides. I found my dish to be pleasant but not spectacular. I enjoyed the green more than the red, finding the tomatillo salsa had more depth of flavor, its acidity pairing well with the rich egg yolk. The flour tortillas were a little lackluster, but supported the rest of the plate adequately. The beans were unfortunately a bit too runny for my liking and probably could have benefited from a bit more lard for flavoring.
I’d like to see Mexican breakfasts become more abundant in our city as I know there are some wonderful things that can be done within this genre. Anyone familiar with the chain restaurant, Taco Cabana—not the greatest Mexican food by far, but decent in a pinch—can probably vouch for the joy of opening a pack of hot breakfast tacos in the morning—perhaps purchased for your co-workers to enjoy in the morning, or brought home to the family in a to-go pack on a weekend morning. I’m thinking the Little Rock food scene would embrace such things with a great deal of enthusiasm.