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.


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.


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
1572 N. College Ave
Fayetteville, AR 72703

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


Onyx Coffee Lab – Fayetteville

I’ve been a fan of Onyx ever since I discovered them several years ago.  They specialize in what is sometimes termed “third-wave” coffee.  The waves are pretty simple:  The first wave would be diner coffee, or the robusta beans that would come in the old metal coffee cans sold under various brand names.  Second wave is Starbucks, which shunned robusta for quality arabica beans, as did other establishments that began their life in Seattle and elsewhere, and one by one have either failed or been bought by, you got it, Starbucks.

Third wave is kind of the “anti Starbucks”.  It seeks to bring the coffee experience back to its neighborhood employing techniques such as pour-over coffee, which is brewed precisely over a period of 3 minutes, using scales, timers, and water at a precise temperature.  It’s a difference in taste that’s marked.  The beans are more expensive since they are sourced from a region and even sometimes a particular hill, much as is wine.  The espressos are individually drawn using technique, not from an automatic machine such as Starbucks now uses.  The foam at the top of a latte is poured in a pattern to show that your drink has been carefully prepared.  For the coffee lover, it’s quite an experience.

Onyx Coffee Lab has been the embodiment of third-wave coffee in NW Arkansas, from the moment they broke away from Arsaga’s in 2012.  To be fair, Arsaga’s was the first third-wave coffee player in the market, and offers a full-featured restaurant menu at their flagship location at The Depot.

I learned and grown in my appreciation for fine pour-over coffee, including the many ways to prepare it, which extend beyond the plunge pot to include the Kalita dripper, the Clever immersion dripper, and the hi-tech siphon dripper at the Springdale location.  The baristas, cuppers, and head roaster are not only great at customer service but are a wealth of knowledge.

That said, I’m tiring of paying what seem to be higher and higher prices that rival the most expensive third-wave stores in the biggest cities.  The cheapest pour-over during my last visit was $4.50, and a similar sized Grasshopper, a peppermint latte, was $5.25.  Prices do include sales tax.  The prices for beans and mugs also either match or surpass comparisons to Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and Intelligentsia.  I’m fairly certain that rents and employee costs in their Onyx’s strip-mall location don’t rival those of Blue Bottle, for instance, which has locations in the basement of NYC Rockefeller Center and San Francisco Ferry Building.

I might have to be content with just buying their beans, and preparing them myself at home.

Rating 4.0/5.0 – Really liked it

Onyx Coffee Lab
2418 N Gregg Ave
Fayetteville, AR 72703

ONYX Coffee Lab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato