A search for authentic food across Little Rock.
A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla typically filled with a blend of cheese and seasoned pork. I once dated a native Salvadorian and had heard of the dish plenty of times, but never had the opportunity to try it until recently. About 15,000 Salvadorians live in Central Arkansas, so these authentic dishes aren't impossible to find, but in a sea of Tex-Mex, they are easily overlooked. These perfect pupusas are from Rosalinda Restaurante in North Little Rock. Traditionally served with beans and rice, I opted for rice and an avocado instead.
2. FRIED CHICKEN & WAFFLES
While fried chicken has a less-than-clear history, it was popularized in the 1940s by Harlan Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders. The native Arkansan developed his signature fried chicken recipe and made it a popular item through his famed company Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Now, I'd be willing to drive a lot farther than North Little Rock to get a fork into these waffles. It would be easy to miss this little chicken and waffles shack -- the whole building clearly had been in distress before being renovated into the restaurant. There are protective bars on the windows. The door is scarcely marked. Yet, as soon as one crosses the threshold into the establishment, the aroma of sweet waffle mix, powdered sugar, and syrup is overwhelming. This fried chicken recipe, passed down for generations, is a perfect pair with this sweet waffle. The brunch- , lunch-, whenever-time favorite is hard to beat.
3. VIETNAMESE GOODNESS
Hidden in the middle of the city, at the intersection of two big roads, Mike's Cafe could be missed. But once someone has pointed it out, you'll never pass on these noodle bowls and pho again.
The pho is the real deal: served with a side of jalapeños, limes and even lemon grass -- the true mark of authenticity. The Bahn Mi, the French-Vietnamese sandwich, is excellent and easily the best I have tasted. The chefs spent months perfecting the recipe before finally putting it on the menu, and it shows.
Now, I've been looking for a good authentic Mexican taco in the city for a while. And while there is plenty of good competition around the city, these from Eliella Ristorante are head and shoulders above the rest. Severing up decadent cabeza, lengua, and chorizo tacos, I could eat these all day. But there is so much more! The grilled cactus appetizers are not to be passed over. Nor is the homemade baked flan. Nor the guacamole. I could go on.