Around the Rock: Tamales are Tops at La Regional, Tacos 4 Life in Conway Delights

My weekly food views…

Thanks to La Regional (7500 Baseline Road), my search for Little Rock tamale supremacy is over. Pass on the chicken in favor of pork, which is a ton more tender and flavorful. The masa-to-meat ratio is spot-on, meaning the restaurant isn’t stingy with the meat, one of the defining characteristics of any elite tamale. La Regional is a gem of a spot in SWLR, serving all the Mexican food standards like street tacos, enchiladas and tortas, plus several seldom seen dishes like the guaraches and meatball soup. The prices are low, the service is quick and an amazing little grocery store, stocked with all the essentials, is even attached to the restaurant. If you haven’t been … go!

We made a quick detour in Conway on our way to the Hogs game to check out Tacos 4 Life. The place’s premise is very cool, “For every meal purchase in these restaurants, a meal is donated to a child in need. Meal for meal.” Couple that with a fun, hip atmosphere, and quick, friendly service, and it’s easy to be a bit forgiving on food with predominately over-the-top flavor combinations, yet underwhelming taste. Sides like cilantro lime rice and refried black beans are bland and pedestrian, while the steak and blue cheese taco is satisfying enough, due in large part to the perfectly fried puffy taco, but is dominated by a heavy hand of pungent cheese. All that said, there’s enough to like about Tacos 4 Life to keep you coming back, which, given a packed restaurant on a Saturday afternoon, the folks of Conway seem to agree.

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South on Main has a new fall menu. I popped in for lunch and ordered the smoked duck with crispy hominy, roasted peppers and hoe cakes—a dish that showcases chef Matt Bell’s continued mastery of the protein. The duck was fall-off-the-bone tender and I’m a huge fan of his hoe cakes, but the dish needed some moisture. A simple drizzle of tasso gravy would easily elevate this dish from good to great.

And the news…

Come celebrate southern food and culture at Ron Robinson Theater on Saturday, October 18th, starting at 6:00 p.m. The cost is about $11 and tickets can be purchased right here. There will be an alleyway reception with bites from Matthew Bell of South on Main, Travis McConnell of Butcher & Public and Sally Mengel of Loblolly Creamery., along with music by Phillip Rex Huddleston, Thom Asewicz, Lee Petray and James Szenher Heck. Beverages from Stone’s Throw Brewing, Moody Brews and Chateau Aux ARC. will even be available to purchase in the theater lobby. A screening of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Pride & Joy,” will follow the reception, along with a panel discussion moderated by yours truly.

The Pantry Crest is now open for business.

On Sunday, October 19th, The Root Cafe will host the 3rd Annual Little Rock Hot Pepper Eating Contest from 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. in the cafe’s courtyard at 1500 S. Main St. Twelve brave contestants will chew and swallow a variety of spicy peppers grown by Doug Smith and the Dunbar Community Garden Project. Attendance is free and open to the public. Participants who would like to sign up should come by the cafe; $10 registration fee holds your spot and will be returned to you on the day of the contest.

The 7th Annual B Street Rib Off, benefitting the American Cancer Society of Central Arkansas, is set for November 1st at Argenta Plaza.

Executive chef Andreas Kisler and The Peabody Hotel will host the Best of the Mid-South Friends of Beard Benefit Dinner on Saturday, November 8th in Memphis. Little Rock’s very own chef Matthew Bell of South on Main will be there representing Arkansas as part of the 6-course dinner. The cost of the dinner with wine pairings is $175 per person for James Beard Foundation members and $200 for non-members, plus tax and gratuity. For more information or to make a reservation, please call The Peabody at 901-529-4183. Proceeds will benefit The James Beard Foundation and Methodist Foundation, Hospital Transplant Fund.

Pulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute will host a Food Day panel discussion and food demonstrations with chefs, farmers and doctors on October 23rd to discuss how food choices affect the community, environment, economy, and public health. The discussion begins at 11:00 a.m. in the Celebrity Chef Theatre at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute, 13000 Interstate 30.

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Around the Rock: Tamales are Tops at La Regional, Tacos 4 Life in Conway Delights