El Porton Mexican Restaurant has sated cravings for fresh, healthy ingredients for more than two decades, serving up authentic Mexican lunches and dinners that complement the bar’s array of 85 tequilas. Amid golden walls that evoke a warm afternoon in a tropical cantina, guests kick-start stomachs by watching chefs craft lime-infused guacamole tableside. From the kitchen, beef and shrimp fajitas sizzle, wafting aromas of onion and bell pepper that transform into cartoon hands to lure in noses. Warm days open El Porton's patio, where sunshine heightens the flavors of make-your-own combo platters spread with chile rellenos, tostadas, and burritos, as well as USDA steaks aged a minimum of 21 days. Tequila shots arrive in flights or individually, and customizable margaritas in flavors such as mango and classic lime pour forth from salt-rimmed glasses to accentuate entrees and fuel conversations about Mexico's hidden agave rivers.
A waiter, hands full of fresh avocado, peppers, and tomatoes, approaches the table. He expertly slices and stirs the ingredients in a lava-stone bowl with the nimble precision of a seasoned chef. Along with whipping up fresh guacamole prepared tableside, Santo Coyote cooks also grill sizzling fajitas, bake spicy seafood specialties, and roll freshly made tortillas that have been lauded by the Arkansas Times at two locations, with one recently opened on Pleasant Ridge Road. Meanwhile, bartenders blend their staggering selection of more than 100 tequilas into specialty margaritas beneath the metal sun sculptures that adorn the walls.
The flavors found in El Chico’s enchiladas and fajitas are a tasty testament to what the Mexican eatery does best: cultivating a menu that bustles with authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Fajitas provide a savory meal for two, with flour tortillas embracing veggies and chicken, beef, or a combination of the two with the gusto of a bear giving a bear hug. Or opt to reward tongues with enchiladas, which accentuate a variety of proteins with slick coats of cheese and sauce. The spicy beef of Mama’s Favorite enchiladas plays nicely with the fiery nature of chili con carne, and the Top Shelf fajita enchiladas capture rare glimpses of grilled fajita steak and ranchera sauce frolicking on the plate. Avocado enchiladas are also on hand for sets of vegetarian cravings.
The menu at Juanita's says the place is known for its fajitas, hot flour tortillas that are served with sizzling piles of shrimp, mushrooms, marinated chicken, or Angus skirt steak. But one look around the place tells visitors that Juanita's is clearly famous for more than that: they have an onsite music venue equipped with professional sound and lights, which hosts an eclectic lineup of artists.
Before shows, guests can settle in early to practice their cheers of "Encore!" and enjoy a meal from Juanita's Mexican-inspired menu. Starters include deep-fried mini burritos and nachos piled with jalapeños, black beans, and the aforementioned fajita meats. Entrees include seven enchilada plates and Juanita's chile relleno, a poblano pepper filled with chicken and cinnamon that's deep-fried with an egg-white coating.
Wade Greenough honed his culinary chops at Viva, where he learned the art of preparing Mexican cuisine. In his own restaurant, Bumpy's Texmex Grill & Cantina, he uses fresh, local ingredients to forge a menu that combines Mexican and American favorites made from scratch. Fresh shrimp and marinated steak make star turns in tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas, and house-made sauces gussy up stateside classics such as baby-back ribs and pizza.
The dining room's Texas-style decor showcases rustic wood accents and walls adorned with metal stars, flat-screen TVs, and signed headshots of the Alamo. From behind the full bar, bartenders blend six signature margaritas in addition to pouring specialty cocktails, wine, and beer.
The taste-bud ticklers at La Valentina prepare gourmet Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine from scratch, using fresh ingredients united by rave-worthy recipes. The menu edifies traditional dishes with tenets of contemporary gastronomy, resulting in enlightened edibles such as fish tacos—corn tortillas topped with grilled tilapia, spinach, and pineapple-avocado pico de gallo ($10.99)—and smoked chicken enchiladas with zesty roasted tomato sauce ($8.99). Avocado artists chop, mix, and serve guacamole ($7.99) tableside, and the back-kitchen preps heartier plates such as the 12-ounce adobo marinated rib eye ($14.99). After the last plate clears, dessert devotees can pay their respects to the sugar gods with Mexican ambrosia such as the volcano—a gooey chocolate mound with a warm fudge center, topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel ($6.49)—and flan ($3.29).