By Todd Barron @ FoodieCuisine.com
As I’ve written about before there aren’t many authentic Mexican restaurants around the Little Rock area. There are several non-authentic ones that are good places to eat at though and La Hacienda at the bottom of Cantrell hill is one of them. They have been around for many years now and serve American Mexican food that is a step above what you will find at other “Mexican” restaurants around town.
La Hacienda is based out of an old Pizza Hut (or Pizza Inn, not sure which) and has a small but comfortable feel to it. They offer typical fare like burritos, tacos, and enchiladas but they also have specialty plates with asada steak, mole chicken, and other offerings. It’s the specialty plates that help La Hacienda stand apart from the competition as many of them are very good.
They marinate their chicken and steak before cooking it and this adds a much needed dimension of flavor. All of their vegetables taste freshly cut and the food is prepared at order time. Like most places around town they have everything pre-cooked and put it together when it’s needed. This results in food that is ready a few minutes after you order it so be prepared for the quickness. It’s a great place to go for lunch as your stay requires very little time.
When you sit down you are greeted with a few different salsas to snack on while you browse the extensive menu. I highly recommend their punch as they have my favorite blend in the state (or anywhere really.)
For this trip I wanted cheese enchiladas and ordered a plate of them with a tamale ($7). I opted for the cheese sauce instead of the red sauce for an extra 50 cents. My wife ordered the nachos with chicken fajita meat ($9) and my son had beef burritos with cheese sauce ($7). We also ordered the cheese dip as an appetizer. All of this cheese should be a huge red flag for you if you want authentic Mexican food. Whenever I traveled to Mexico I rarely had cheese on anything and didn’t see it as an option in most places.
The cheese dip was too runny for my liking but did have a decent flavor to it but we had barely made a dent in it when our food arrived. In the future I’ll pass on any cheese dip given how fast the food arrived but this is not a problem, especially if you are going there for lunch.
My cheese enchiladas didn’t look too appetizing but I should have known better. My order looked exactly like I envisioned it given the location and tasted the same as expected. The enchiladas were simple and on the bland side and my tamale had more masa (corn filling) than meat. The tamale was very dry and I ate only a couple of bites before giving up.
My wife’s nachos were much better than my food and I wish I had ordered them. The chicken was tender and had a nice semi-spicy flavor to it. The chicken was piled high on the nachos that were covered by a generous portion of toppings. In the future I’ll definitely get the nachos. I didn’t try my son’s burritos but they looked very similar to my enchiladas.
You may be reading this and think that I didn’t enjoy my experience at La Hacienda and you would be half right. The problem is that I’ve been there many times and enjoy the specialty plates.
It’s almost as if half of the menu is for typical American Mexican junk food and the other half is for tasty Mexican specials. And guess what? They do! I felt like having a cheese enchilada and received exactly what I ordered. Sometimes you have to go slumming and I did on this trip. I know the food on the Mexican specialty plate side is good and recommend it. I typically enjoy the asada based plates and also like their mole chicken. Give them a try and order from the specialty side if you aren’t looking for low-rent American Mexican food.
3024 Cantrell Rd
Little Rock, AR 72202