Tacos4Life Grill – Fayetteville

Updated 2017-10-06; Originally Posted 2015-09-25.

I’m partial to good Mexican food, though I must say I’m more partial to those that are more American than authentic.  We are blessed with a number of pretty authentic single unit Mexican restaurants in the area, and there were a number within a very short drive of where I used to work on the east side of Springdale.  These are the types of restaurants where gringos like myself are uncommon, where you have to find the English speaking server, and you’re going to get asked “so is it your first time here?”, as if you’re entering uncharted territory.

Although I appreciate the chance to sample the more authentic cuisine, it’s a little hard on my digestive system to sample dishes that are a more greasy (lots of lard), more spicy, and being heavy on fatty meats and light on the vegetables.  For that reason, I seem to go to Chipotle, or places like it, that aim to combine healthy ingredients, freshly made, in a nutritious and reliable way.  Therefore, I’m excited to try Tacos4Life, which seems to aim to be that type of a restaurant.  And they are largely successful.

Tacos4Life-Fayetteville-Décor

They offer a very broad menu, given that you can choose a protein (chicken, beef, pork, seafood), have it on one of four styles of taco or wrapped in lettuce, and have a choice of sides that is beyond beans and rice.  I was in a chicken mood, so I wanted to try just the basic grilled chicken on a flour taco and the southwest grilled chicken on a puffy tortilla shell.  My cashier helped put that together and suggested I substitute Mexican cream-style corn for rice, at a supplement of 75 cents.  It was a great recommendation since it was the most enjoyable of all that I tasted.

Tacos4Life-Fayetteville-MainDish

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the plain taco much more than the puffy one.   The flavors of the plain taco were well mixed with the chicken and were overstuffed to the point of seepage on the metal tray you are provided.  It’s how a taco should be, but don’t try to eat one while driving.  Rest easy, I was at one of the long community-style tables.  The other taco was not as pleasing, since the southwest dressing and other ingredients really covered the taste of the chicken, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I was eating chicken or beef.  The puffy tortilla was not the culprit and was worth the extra fat and calories for variety’s sake.  I was pleased to be able to add a Mexican soda, Jarritos-brand Tamarind, which is typically only found in small Mexican restaurants.

The prices at Taco4Life are definitely at a premium, but so is the quality of the food.  There is also a declared social mission, where your purchase of a taco or similar item drives a 22-cent donation towards a meal served through a charity in Honduras.  It’s described in a full-color brochure that accompanies a separate menu leaflet.

Update: I have eaten at this restaurant at least a half-dozen times since this initial review. The service problems mentioned earlier have been largely resolved, and in particular they do a good job of moving the line through a very dense lunch crowd. The rewards program is worth joining since I’ve gotten rewarded not only for patronage but also just for having a birthday.

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

Tacos4Life Grill
tacos4life.com
1572 N. College Ave
Fayetteville, AR 72703

Tacos 4 Life Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Buttered Biscuit, The

I have eaten several times at this bright breakfast spot since it opened in April 2017. It’s really popular, as evidenced by their parking lot.  I no longer even bother trying to find a spot and choose instead to park in the neighborhood across Moberly Lane.  It’s good exercise to play chicken trying to cross this very busy road.

The popularity is logical: There are not many restaurants appealing to an upscale crowd in the breakfast space. Most of the other options are either fast food (Chick-Fil-A), fast casual (Panera), or tried and true waffle/pancake restaurants (Denny’s, IHOP, Village Inn).

During my last visit, I ordered the Biscuit, Eggs, Potatoes, and Meat, which at $10 is expected for a large breakfast. The choices for meat are several, of which I had the slightly less indulgent chicken sausage. The menu-described “house cut, herb seasoned baby red skin potatoes” are as delicious as they sound. They offer several custom spreads, including the honey butter pictured here.  I’ve also had the Biscuits and Gravy, served with Eggs and Potatoes for $10. It’s a really tough decision between these two dishes, sort of a Mason-Dixon line northern/southern decision.

Buttered-Biscuit-Full-Breakfast

The coffee is a bit pricey, at $3 for a bottomless cup, but it’s a house blend from Onyx Coffee Lab.  As a special Monday-Friday limited time promotion, it’s free if you show your server that you’ve liked and shared their Facebook posting mentioning this.

The only downside I can mention is to reiterate that the extreme popularity of this place means you’ll almost always have to wait a little, and possibly a lot, if you go during a peak time. To help with that, the restaurant uses a wait time indicator on their Yelp page. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but I give them kudos for trying to this.

Rating 4.0/5.0 – Really liked it

Buttered Biscuit, The
https://www.thebutteredbiscuit.co
1403 SE Moberly Lane
Bentonville AR 72712

The Buttered Biscuit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tavola Trattoria

Tavola Trattoria is the restaurant that people go to when they want elegant Italian food in Bentonville.  Certainly there are many other choices for Italian dining in the area, both independent and chain restaurants.  However, when people go to Tavola, they are looking for that special experience.  That includes the funky glasses that come in all sorts of odd shapes and convince you that you are tipsy even before the wine is poured.  The unique spongy bread is so delicious and so far from the stale crusty so-called bread that was served by Italian restaurants of yesteryear. Those things are nice, but people keep coming back to try the many unique recipes at Tavola, which one could term nouvelle Italian cuisine, except it’s not the least bit snotty!

I have had the pleasure to dine with others on several occasions, and my recent visit was no exception.  I ordered the Mirabella’s Special Pasta, a four cheese ravioli served in a bolognese sauce, with melted bualo mozzarella and parmesan cream sauce.  It was luscious.  I often have the Ravioli Tavola, which is described as “pasta pillows with blue crab meat”.  Though it’s not a ravioli, the Crab Macaroni & Cheese is also amazing.

My dining companions had the Chicken Marsala and the Spaghetti Carbonara, and were very pleased.  I probed for details, and the only detail I could get was that the Carbonara was a little under salted.  I think that’s a criticism I could live with, whereas the typical situation of over salting cannot be undone.

What makes Tavola fun is the way wines are served.  Though there is a high-end wine list that is served only by the bottle, there is an extensive list of wines that are served by the the glass ($10), mini-carafe ($15), and bottle ($40).  We shared a mini-carafe of Prosecco from that list three ways as a starter, and then ordered a bottle of a California Pinot Gris from Breggo Cellars to accompany the main course.

We were all too full to consider ordering dessert, though I remember they are delicious if you can save some room.  They do serve espresso and French press coffee, if you want to linger a few more moments before heading out.

I would strongly recommend reservations for peak dining, though you can get luck if you arrive early like we did.  Though we had no issues on this particular evening, we did encounter quite a bit of “out of stocks” on a previous visit.  After our server made several round-trips to the kitchen, each time asking for us to choose again, we were presented with a list of bottles actually available after a quick “shelf check” was made.  That same night, some of the specials were also in short supply; my colleague who ordered sea bass but settled for red snapper said in his dry way, “I’d call it the out-house if the food wasn’t so good.”

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

Tavola Trattoria
www.tavolatrattoria.com
108 SE A St
Bentonville, AR 72712

Tavola Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dink’s Barbecue

Dink’s has long been one of my favorite barbecue (BBQ) spots in NW Arkansas.  I often will stop here for lunch, just after landing at the local airport, after returning from another part of the country.  Not only is it on my direct route, it also reorients me in a visceral way to being back home.  Barbecue is serious business here, to the point I’d say you might want to avoid it as you would religion and politics in casual conversation.

On my most recent visit, I had the “American Dip” special, which is a beef brisket on a sandwich with fried onion crisps and cheese, served with a side of au jus for dipping.  Though the sandwich was delicious, I could really taste the salt in an unpleasant way.  It’s probably more a fault of the individual ingredients, which when combined, combine for a salt assault, than anything to be blamed on the kitchen. For my one side, I chose the delicious and well-seasoned shoestring potatoes, which on their own were not overly salty.

Dinks BBQ 2015-10-14

Barbecue joints are notoriously for being sloppy for eating; there is a reason you get a roll of paper towels at your table and not paper napkins.  However, I’ve become accustomed to Dink’s getting behind in cleaning their tables, both during their peak lunch period, and even in mid-afternoon, when they have ample opportunity to catch up.

As a final note:  Dink’s also serves delicious pulled pork and baked beans.  I’ll make sure to update this review when I go back for that meal.

Rating 3.5/5.0 – Liked it

Dink’s Barbecue
www.dinksbbq.com
3404 SE Macy Rd #18
Bentonville, AR 72712

Dink's Pit BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Pueblito

Though chain restaurants, both fast food and fast casual, have a certain stranglehold in this area, you can get lucky if you’re outside their zone of domination. El Pueblito certainly would fit that description, tucked away four miles off of Route 71 in the Highlands neighborhood of Bella Vista. It’s become the place that people in Bella Vista recommend when it comes to Mexican food. To be fair, there is just one other Mexican restaurant to be found in the city.

When I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, I asked if I could order from the lunch menu, though it was pretty clearly marked that it was a Monday through Friday only opportunity. Fortunately, I was allowed, and what a bargain it was! For $6.25, you can have your choice of two from a long list including taco, enchilada, and burrito, as well as refried beans and rice, all served on a large plate. I chose a cheese enchilada and chicken taco, which was served in a hard shell.

It was a perfect lunch portion, and looked very beautiful on the plate. The enchilada was good, as was its accompanying sauce. The taco was stuffed full of lettuce, which made me happy since it’s sometimes tough to get enough vegetables when eating at a Mexican restaurant. The refried beans were delicious and not greasy, and the rice was fluffy and nicely seasoned. I would have enjoyed a Jarritos soda, but stayed with water since unfortunately no Mexican sodas are served here.

Since I made a good attempt at dabbling instead of indulging into the decent chips and accompanying salsa, I decided to end my meal with a plate of two sopapillas, lightly seasoned with honey. It was a good choice! After being to New Orleans for the first time, where I had my first beignet, it was interesting to compare the sopapilla to it. One could say they are siblings, whereas the American doughnut is a cousin to both.

I’d very much recommend a stop at El Pueblito, especially if it happens to be mealtime and you’re enroute to/from Missouri, where the choices along the highway are few and far between. I think you will be glad you did.

Update:  I revisited El Pueblito with a friend, and was very impressed with how quickly the restaurant got us seated, despite being very full with the Sunday church crowd.  What I ordered was very similar to before, and was just as good.  My friend had the taco salad, and was impressed that the chicken has just the right amount of kick.

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

El Pueblito
No Web Site
1705 Forest Hills Boulevard
Bella Vista, AR 72715

El Pueblito Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Top China

Top China is my idea of what a take out Chinese restaurant should be.  It’s the type of restaurant that used to be a lot more prevalent before the growth of the Chinese buffet.  Here in Northwest Arkansas, it’s tough to find such a take out place, and not at all difficult to find the ubiquitous buffet, of varying success.  You can eat in at Top China, but it’s basically a take out experience, complete with plastic ware, Styrofoam cups, and paper plates, served at tables that even IKEA would consider rudimentary.

Let’s get to the food.  I always start with the Wonton Soup, and then move onto some combination of either Shrimp, Chicken, or Beef with Broccoli or Snow Peas.  Technically this could be counted as six dishes, though almost invariably I have the Chicken and Broccoli.  No matter what combination you choose, you will get good quality protein and fresh vegetables, cooked in a a delicious soy sauce.  I’ve had other dishes here over the past several years, but none recent enough to be provide solid recommendations.   That said, the food here is consistently good, with never a bad meal had over many visits.

When I visit a new Chinese restaurant, I typically sample the flavor of the Wonton Soup as a predictor of the quality of the cooking in general.  Sure enough, if a restaurant can’t nail the broth, they seem to have trouble in the main dishes as well.  You know you’re in for a treat at Top China from the very first sip.

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

Top China
No Web Site
32A Sugar Creek Center
Bella Vista, AR 72714

Top China Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First Watch

Of all the decisions that one has when traveling, most would probably be happy to have breakfast included in their hotel stay. I guess I’m not most people. I actually enjoy venturing out to find that luncheonette prized by the community.

First Watch is such a place. What makes it different is that they elevate the breakfast experience by serving complex dishes that are way beyond eggs and toast. One can choose very healthy dishes, from granola to high-protein, low-calorie wraps. Or, one can go the other way like I did, with a dish called Bubba’s Benny. It’s essentially southern biscuits and gravy, with eggs on top and potatoes on the side. My initial confusion was why they decided to use turkey sausage gravy, on what otherwise is a heart attack on a plate! I think it was just to enrich the savory flavor. I’d risk spiking my cholesterol again, once in a great while, and recommend you do the same.

I visited on a Saturday morning that was also the Fourth of July, where I was joined in the waiting area by many runners who had just finished the Firecracker 5k race. The wait was probably a bit more severe than on a more normal weekend, but as with most high-demand breakfast places, the later you arrive, the longer you wait.

The only negative tidbit I’d report is that the prices for everything seemed to be high, including the coffee. Most breakfast dishes with coffee, tax, and tip run pretty close to $15. It’s well worth the splurge, but it’s also high enough to make me wonder why I didn’t book a room at a hotel that included a buffet!

Rating 4.0/5.0 – Really liked it

First Watch – Memorial
www.firstwatch.com/locations/ok-tulsa-east-68th-street/
8104 E 68th St
Tulsa, OK 74133

First Watch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato