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story.lead_photo.caption Carne Asada, Al Pastor and Carnitas are a few varieties of street tacos available at Dos Rocas Beer & Tacos in Little Rock. - Photo by Jennifer Christman

Look at the name. Dos Rocas Beer & Tacos.

Then look at the menus. The locally sourced Latin American street food menu fits on one printed page, whereas an alcohol menu binder features four full pages of Arkansas draft beers, cocktails and spirits such as tequila, mezcal and rum, available in 1.5-ounce pours and flights.

Dos Rocas Beer & Tacos

Address: 1220 S. Main St., Little Rock

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Cuisine: “Farm to table street food of Latin American”

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Reservations: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 313-5413

dosrocasbeerandtacos.com

But while potables get top billing at the new SoMa spot on Main Street -- co-owned by Jack and Corri Sundell of the nearby Root Cafe and the restaurant's longtime kitchen manager Cesar Bordon -- the provisions are no slouch.

As for its name, the menu explains Dos Rocas translates to "two rocks," adding, "Our name is a nod to ... Bordon. He grew up in Paraguay speaking Guarani. His hometown, Ita, means 'rock' in Guarani. The other rock is, of course, Little Rock!"

Unfortunately, our first Dos Rocas visit -- plagued with service snags and attitude -- was rocky. But a second visit was seamless, giving us great hope for the place.

Gallery: Dos Rocas in Little Rock's SOMA neighborhood

Let's start with the good experience first.

On a recent Wednesday night, the quirky restaurant of wooden booths and mismatched chairs, accented by string lights and bold paint accents, including a mural of a sun, already was full by 6:30 p.m. when my date and I arrived. But before we could make our way past the pool table to the back bar, a table for two opened and we were seated by a friendly staff member.

Having been disappointed by the Queso ($5) and chips on the first visit, I wanted to try it again. This time we'd order the cheese dip with chorizo ($1), and it tasted better. I was impressed how the more mild than expected sausage added to the dip without adding a lot of the usual orange-y grease. And the delightful second server was more than happy to bring us a salt shaker for the chips, whereas our first server lectured us that salt shakers were not traditional, therefore not available and reluctantly brought us a paper cup of salt ... after we were mostly done.

This time we were able to order an appetizer that was sold out the first visit: the Yuca Fries ($5.50). Seasoned wedges of yuca -- a potato-like root -- looked not unlike regular fries. And they tasted deliciously similar, if starchier. The accompanying fresh, herby chimichurri sauce for dipping was divine.

The bulk of the menu consists of reasonably priced street food -- mostly in the $2.75-$5.50 range -- that comes served in paper-lined baskets and can be ordered to your appetite's content. We tried a little bit of everything to share.

The Pupusas ($3.50) were our favorite. We ordered the soft, thin masa cakes to be stuffed with chorizo and cheese and liked the colorful contrast and crunch of the Honduran encurtido -- or pickled -- slaw and pickled onion on top. They're also available with just cheese or vegan chorizo.

Also tasty was the ground beef Pastel de Mandioca ($5; vegetarian chorizo and cheese is another option); we ordered two. Empanadas made from yuca dough, they contained, in addition to cumin-spiced beef, green peppers, onion and chopped egg. We mostly detected beef and found it pleasing.

We tried three kinds of street tacos, all served on homemade corn tortillas with chopped onion and cilantro, as well as a grilled jalapeno half, a lime wedge and two squeeze bottles of sauces -- a spicy red and a lively green tomatillo. The Carne Asada ($4), sliced beef tacos, were satisfactory, if chewy. We definitely didn't need the salt shaker for the savory slow-roasted pork Carnitas tacos ($3.50). And we didn't need any hot sauce for the super-spicy Al Pastor ($3) -- "Turkish and Mexican fusion of grilled spiced pork and pineapple" tacos. We didn't notice the pineapple presence and would have welcomed it to balance the heat.

An order of sweet homemade Churros ($4) was soft unlike the other crisp ones we've experienced elsewhere. An order consisted of three thick, cake-doughnut-like sticks coated in sugar and served with a side of "caramel sauce" which was thin and milky in consistency, not at all sticky.

Back to our first visit, on a very busy Thursday with no salt shaker and a salty, overworked server who set an unpleasant tone. In addition to the salt problem, she failed to give us napkins and silverware in a timely manner and seemed put out in getting them for us.

Zesty and refreshing was my Michelada ($6), a 16-ounce beer cocktail of tomato sangrita (tomato, orange and lime juice, onion and spices) with Modelo Especial, served in a Flyway pint glass with a salt and smoked paprika rim, garnished with a lime.

A friend was not impressed with the Vino con Coca ($6), red wine and Mexican Coca-Cola on ice garnished with a lemon, described as "the life of the party in Paraguay!" "I am not sure what possessed me to order that drink," she says, comparing it to cough syrup. "I'd never sent a drink back until I had that." She was happier with a safer, affordable house margarita ($5); served on the rocks, it featured tequila, fresh lime juice, triple sec, simple syrup, a lime slice and salt (in one area, not the whole rim). Mexican Coke and Mexican Dr Pepper also are offered, as are Jarritos sodas, A Lively Brew Kombucha and various teas.

We found the Queso too salty and, as mentioned, the chips not salty enough. As for the freshly made Guacamole ($6.50), the dip of avocado, diced tomatoes, chopped onion, bell peppers and cilantro, tasted mostly of lime, and again, we missed the salt on the chips.

The best appetizers were the Fried Plantains ($5), which were sweet and perfect and served with a side of Honduran Crema.

We ordered the Nachos Rocas ($6.50) as an afterthought while eating other appetizers. The chips with red beans, pico de gallo, pickled onions and queso with chorizo ($1 extra; vegan chorizo also available), would have been better hotter, but they had coagulated by the time they reached the table and our mouths.

Also not hot were the Quesadillas ($5.50), which featured too little Oaxaca cheese and other ingredients. The Green Onion & Cheese and Nopales (cactus) quesadillas were slightly dry and so light on the fillings, it was difficult to identify which was which. I did finally determine which was the cactus -- no prickles! -- and liked its meaty texture. Vegetarian chorizo and cheese is another quesadilla option.

As with the ground beef Pastel, the beef Empanadas ($2.75) also featured the mixture of cumin-spiced beef, green peppers, onion and chopped egg. We found them fine, if a bit doughy.

The night almost ended on a pleasurable note with a shared luscious piece of Tres Leches Cake ($5) and the Churros, which one friend happily likened to a funnel cake.

And then the salty server confused our checks.

Photo by Jennifer Christman
Pupusas, stuffed masa cakes, are served with a Honduran pickled slaw and pickled onion at Dos Rocas Beer & Tacos.
Photo by Jennifer Christman
Dos Rocas Beer & Tacos is open on Main Street in the SoMa neighborhood of Little Rock.
Photo by Jennifer Christman
Dos Rocas Beer & Tacos handmade Churros are served with a milky caramel sauce.

Weekend on 12/20/2018

Print Headline: Dos Rocas has the potential to rock

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