Tucked in between a laundromat and a chicken wing place over at 1415 John Barrow Road in Little Rock is the best little family-run Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in a while. I bet you’ve never even heard of la Poblanita. Apple Maps certainly hadn’t. It wanted to take me 800 miles away. (Don’t worry, I’ve added the restaurant to Maps and Apple has confirmed it. Now folks 800 miles away can find our La Poblanita.)
When you get to La Poblanita, just pick whatever table suits you. They only have booths, all four tops. There’s a TV over on one side that plays Cine Latino TV novellas all day. It’s not as distracting if you sit over by the windows.
As soon as you sit down your waitress will bring you a menu and ask you what you’d like to drink. It looks like the most popular drink is either the pineapple agua fresca or those giant 32 oz. Corona beers they call Familiar. I got the Horchata this time, which is an ice-cold concoction traditionally made from rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. This one was a pleasant drink to try, but it clearly came from a packet. Maybe stick with the Familiar next time.
In a minute your waitress will bring you some chips and salsa. The chips are deep fried corn tortillas, real thick. They have those little bubbles on them from having been fried hard in oil. The salsas are both green. A creamy light green one is very smooth and comforting, lightly flavored and not spicy. You might even be fooled into thinking you’re having an avocado salsa of some kind, but you’re not. It’s made from jalapeños, olive oil and seasoning. The more watery dark green one is my favorite. That one is made from avocados along with tomatillos, white onion and lots of lime juice.
There are two general dining options here: picking something off the menu or going with the buffet. When I came earlier this week with the Tasting Krewe, I had the buffet. The buffet has about a dozen or so items, a wide assortment like crispy tostadas to whole fried fish to stewed pork to chicken gizzard stew to black and pinto beans, all on a theme of tomato and vegetables. There’s also a cold salad bar which has salsas, hard boiled eggs and a really nice pickled nopales (cactus leaf) salad.
When I came there this Saturday morning, I decided to peruse the menu instead and ordered the pozole. Pozole is a corn and pork soup, in a broth made of chilies and tomatoes. It’s not spicy, but is savory. The pozole came with a pair of tostadas covered in refried beans, lettuce tomato and cheese, and the usual fresh limes, cilantro and onion to add into and garnish the soup.
At la Poblanita it also comes with chopped radish, which I thought was a great texture addition. I added the whole garnish plate to the bowl and squeezed in all of the limes.
I thought the pozole was good, but wanted the pork to be a little more tender, and the corn a bit more tender too. When I checked out over at the register in the corner, I got into a conversation with one of the owners, who was interested in what I had and what I liked. I told him that I had ordered the pozole but was really looking forward to ordering the menudo next time, since that is normally my go to. He said that the menudo is by far the more popular, and that on Saturdays and Sundays the buffet has menudo and pozole. He said he puts in three pans of menudo to every one pan of pozole.
So maybe if you go on the weekend, leave the menu, take the buffet. That way you can have a tasting of many of their different offerings and see what you like best yourself. Next time, I’m having the menudo.
Since this place is literally off the map (or at least it was), and is certainly off the web, here’s a few snaps of the menu: