While we at Rock City Eats tend to focus on the food scene here in Central Arkansas, we’ve discovered plenty of great eats all around the state, too. Arkansas’ highways, byways, and small towns are ripe with numerous excellent restaurants, dairy bars, drive-ins, and bakeries of all sorts. In this regular feature, we explore some of these places and encourage you to pull over and sample some of the greatest food from “Around Arkansas.” Next up, a small restaurant serving up food you can’t find anywhere else in the state … Pinoy Express in Cabot.
You can find Pinoy Express at Cabot’s first exit on the highway, before you get to Main Street. From Little Rock, take Highway 67/167 to exit 16A. Take a quick left after the exit, and Pinoy Express is on your left in a strip mall, set off the highway by a couple hundred feet.
Pinoy Express is one of the few restaurants anywhere in Arkansas selling authentic Filipino food. Owner Carlos Fergoso is a young man, only 26 years old. Fergoso was born in the Philippines but came to the United States with his parents to be closer to their family members in Searcy. Fergoso says he used to watch his mother cook and began experimenting in the kitchen at a young age. Fergoso chose Cabot for his restaurant to be closer to the Air Force base, so personnel there could pick up his food on their way home.
Fergoso tells me that Filipino food is all about mixing cultural influences while keeping flavors nicely balanced. The Philippines has historical ties to Spain, the U.S., China and many countries in Asia. As a result, dishes tend to be a hodgepodge of ingredients and techniques from around the world.
That came through strongly in the dishes I tried. Pinoy Express’s most popular dish is lumpia, a pork spring roll that almost eats like a taquito. Lightly crispy with plenty of pork flavor, this appetizer’s 15 pieces are perfect for sharing. I highly recommend it. I also got to try the adobado, which is a coconut milk broth with lemon and your choice of protein served with rice. This sweet and citrus flavors seem like they should conflict, but it works well, and this dish is what I would imagine could pass as comfort food in the Philippines. And Pinoy Express’s take on Filipino barbecue was also really enjoyable. Simply called “pork on a stick,” these three sweet-and-sour glazed skewers were packed with flavor, owing to the perfectly cooked pork and tangy soy-based sauce.
The menu features more than two dozen dishes and a few desserts, so there is plenty of variety to be found. My next visit, I’ll be looking to try the sinigang soup made with taramind and the turon dessert, which sounds like a sweet banana spring roll. All items are served in to-go containers. Be warned, all dishes are made from scratch, which means you might be waiting a while for your food. Pinoy Express takes call ahead seating and works with Chef Shuttle in the Cabot area.
It’s really not possible for a restaurant to succeed in small-town Arkansas without being price-conscious. Thankfully, Pinoy Express fits the bill nicely. Dishes range from $7 to $13, with most in the $9 or $10 neighborhood. These are filling plates, too, so you will be getting your money’s worth.
Fergoso told me his biggest passion is sharing Filipino culture with the people of Arkansas, and I believe he does a great job. Pinoy Express is a restaurant I wish we had in Little Rock so I could enjoy this interesting cuisine on a more regular basis. As it is, Pinoy Express is well worth the drive to Cabot all by itself.
110 Rainbow Dr. in Cabot
Drive: About 20 minutes from Little Rock, depending on traffic
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.; closed on Sunday
Phone: (501) 941-3334