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Selected restaurants

By The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

This article was published December 13, 2012 at 3:18 a.m.

— Weekly theme listings reflect a range of dining possibilities in central Arkansas, across a spectrum of settings and price ranges. Restaurant reviewers’ visits are anonymous and all expenses are paid by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Bargain means a meal (without beverage or dessert) is typically less than $12. Moderate is $12 to $25. Expensive is $25 and up. To read recent restaurant reviews in their entirety, visit arkansasonline.com/restaurants.

Mexican/

Tex-Mex/

Southwestern

CACTUS JACK’S

11414 W. Markham St., Little Rock, (501) 227-7556; 4120 E. McCain Blvd. (McCain Crossing shopping center), North Little Rock, (501) 945-5888

Locations of the accommodating restaurant mini-chain on both sides of the river serve ample portions with potent cheese dip and salsa.

Lunch, dinner daily. Full bar. Bargain.

CASA MANANA

6820 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, (501) 280-9888; 18321 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, (501) 868-8822; River Market, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, (501) 372-6637

The salsa and the guacamole are top-drawer at the nononsense sit-down locations, which excel at seafood (including a garlicky Catfish al Mojo de Ajo) and offer a fine weekend breakfast. The River Market branch is a wellstocked taqueria.

Lunch, dinner daily; breakfast Sun. Full bar. (River Market: Breakfast, lunch Mon-Sat. No alcohol.) Reservations Mon-Thu. Bargain.

EL PORTON

12111 W. Markham St., Little Rock, (501) 223-8588; 5507 Ranch Drive, Little Rock, (501) 223-8588; 5021 Warden Road, North Little Rock, (501) 753-4630

The menu offers a vast array of appetizers, soups and salads, burritos, vegetarian dinners, pork/beef/chicken dishes, enchiladas, grilled plates, seafood plates, fajitas and specialties, served hot, fresh and fast.

Lunch, dinner daily. Full bar. Bargain.

LA HACIENDA

3024 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, (501) 661-0600

The family-owned restaurant’s fast, fresh, efficiently served brand of authentic Mexican cooking has inspired a cult following. (The west Little Rock branch on Chenal Parkway has moved to the Market Place Shopping Center, 11121 N. Rodney Parham Road, and changed its name to La Casa Real.)

Lunch, dinner daily. Full bar. Reservations (six or more people). Moderate.

LAS PALMAS

4154 E. McCain Blvd., North Little Rock, (501) 945-8010; 3824 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock, (501) 945-8010; 10402 Stagecoach Road, Little Rock, (501) 455-8500; 786 Elsinger Blvd., Conway, (501) 329-5010

This mini-chain offers a huge menu (don’t miss the top-notch tamales), swift and systematic service and low prices.

Lunch, dinner daily. Full bar at North Little Rock, Little Rock sites. Reservations vary by location. Bargain.

NEW! LA CASA REAL

11121 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, (501) 219-4689

The Alvarez family has moved and renamed what used to be the Chenal Parkway branch of La Hacienda, retaining the best menu items and adding some new favorites.

Lunch, dinner Mon-Sat. Full bar. Bargain.

NEW! LOCAL LIME

17815 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, (501) 448-2226 The owners of nearby Big Orange use that formula for a superb Mexican/ Southwestern menu focusing on fresh-ingredient taco plates and top-end margaritas. Lunch, dinner Tue-Sun. Full bar. Moderate-expensive.

Weekend, Pages 38 on 12/13/2012

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