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story.lead_photo.caption Taqueria El Primo in Sherwood serves quesadillas filled with one’s choice of meat, lettuce, cheese, tomato and avocado. Here it’s made with carnitas, along with rice and beans. - Photo by Rosemary Boggs

Many of us are familiar with the phrase "big things come in small packages," and in the case of the diminutive Taqueria El Primo in Sherwood, those big things are taste, quality and value.

I'd seen the evolution of the restaurant from a small fish place into a full-blown authentic Mexican eatery with roadside signs touting street tacos, burritos and quesadillas. That was enough to pique my interest, but it took awhile to stop in and see what it was all about. I'd checked out the menu on Facebook, and read reviews, most of which were extremely positive. So a scorching Saturday afternoon seemed like a good time to go in for a late lunch.

Taqueria El Primo

Address: 3301 E. Kiehl Ave., Suite 1, Sherwood

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Cuisine: Mexican

Credit cars: V, MC, AE, D

Alcoholic beverages: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 835-1235

The restaurant is at the end of a small strip center on Kiehl Avenue that also houses a laundromat, a Mexican grocery, a florist and shoe repair place. Parking is right in front.

A small dining area holds about seven tables with standard metal and vinyl chairs. It's small but doesn't seem squeezed. You can order at the back counter, which we did, but I did notice a server take a couple's order at a nearby table.

There is a handwritten menu board behind the counter, but it's a bit cluttered. We grabbed a to-go menu that was easier to read. You can order carryout; there's a drive-through window on the building's left side.

After a brief family huddle we made our choices and ordered. The dish I wanted was the Costilla de Puerco con Nopales, pork ribs cooked with cactus. I really had my mouth set to try it. But it wasn't available that day.

Within a few minutes our plates were brought out by the friendly server. First came my son's barbacoa platter ($9.99), slow-cooked beef that was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It was a little fatty, but that added to the flavor and texture of the delicious meat. It comes with tortillas, corn or flour, and rice and beans.

I ended up going with the pastor platter ($9.99), pork marinated in an adobo sauce, flour or corn tortilla, with rice and beans. The meat was very tender after being cooked in the flavorful mix of spices.

The server brought a small caddy to the table that contained small bowls filled with lime slices, chopped onion and cilantro. I mixed three good pinches of cilantro in the rice and it gave the tender well-seasoned grains a flavorful kick. The beans were a pretty standard refried, but they too were seasoned just right. I put onion in the beans, and the crunch also took those up a notch.

My mother ordered a quesadilla ($5.99 ala carte, $7.99 with rice and beans) filled with carnitas, lettuce, sour cream, avocado and cheese. Carnitas means "little meats," and its traditionally made with pork simmered until tender. The result was very juicy, without being greasy. It was served in a large flour tortilla, along with rice and beans.

Since we were sharing, and planned to take some of our platters home for later, I ordered a gordita ($3) and a pork tamale ($2.25 each; $7.99 for a dinner of three tamales, rice and beans). They also offer chicken tamales but they were out that day.

The gordita is a corn pouch filled with choice of meat with queso fresco, sour cream, tomato, avocado, lettuce and beans. I went with chorizo, a Mexican sausage that was zesty, although a little greasy, and made for a bit of a delicious mess. We shared; it went fast.

The pork tamale, wrapped in a corn husk, had a thick outer shell of a corn-based masa or dough, and filling of tender seasoned pork. The outer shell was quite firm but had a nice corn flavor.

I will admit that these tortillas have to be the best I ever had. They appeared homemade, cooked on a grill, and were thin, almost like tissue paper in spots. Some were bigger, some smaller, some a little oddly shaped. But, oh, they were tender and the taste actually accented the meat. Sometimes thicker tortillas can overwhelm the flavor of the filling, but not at Taqueria El Primo.

We did take home a couple of to-go boxes. The meat heated up well as did the tortillas.

The menu also offers burritos ($6.99), tortas or Mexican sandwiches ($6.99) and two chili rellenos with rice and beans ($10.99). There is a shrimp cocktail ($11.99) and a tostada de ceviche ($3.50), raw fish cured in citrus juices served on a crisp tostada shell. There are a variety of other beef and pork dishes, as well as tripa (tripe or beef stomach), lengua (beef tongue) and buche (pork stomach) in platters ($9.99) or as tacos -- a la carte ($1.49-$1.79) or as a dinner with rice and beans ($9.99-$10.99). Saturday and Sunday mornings until 11 a.m. they offer three breakfast selections made with eggs, served with rice and beans, each $7.99

The restaurant doesn't have a soda fountain but instead offers fruit-flavored Fanta soft drinks, Coke and Sprite in tall glass bottles. Drinking straight out of them brought back good childhood memories.

There are three flavors of punch in a dispenser that are served in foam cups. All the drinks listed on the menu are priced at $1.99.

Photo by Rosemary Boggs
Taqueria El Primo in Sherwood offers a barbacoa platter. The tender, slow cooked beef is served with rice and beans.

Weekend on 06/28/2018

Print Headline: Tiny Taqueria is big on flavor


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