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

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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