Over the weekend we got a preview of the mostly finished space. There are always a few last-minute changes and a piece to tack on here and there, but things are looking good for their opening date this Wednesday, April the 22nd. Here is your full preview of what to expect from the Space, the Drinks, and the Food at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
If you grew up in central Arkansas you likely have memories of the old Brownings location. The most interesting part about walking into Heights Taco & Tamale Co. (HTT) is that everything feels comforting and familiar and at the same time nothing feels the same.
We say it a lot privately, but probably not publicly enough, Amber Brewer of Yellow Rocket Concepts is the most talented person in all of Arkansas food industry today. Her ability to develop a vision and put it to practice in a space is bigger than any culinary talent out there, and the impact a space has on food quality is very underrated.
The going theme for the whole restaurant is Arkansas and delta roots. It is reflected in the drinks and in the food, but it is tied together perfectly in the space. HTT features four distinct areas each with a very separate feel and defined focal point.
The bar will draw you down the walkway of hand crafted tiles into the kitchen area where the tiles move up the wall with a large H. The bar has an old mercantile store theme with lots of little spaces and accents to explore.
In the main dining area, eyes will go straight to the enormous church style marquee. The space is topped with a chandelier made from a John Deer tractor tire all of it giving the sense of sitting in a delta cafe.
The side dining area is open and airy, with the focal point here being the lit Hola sign hanging on the accent wall that features a custom patterned wall paper. The blue wallpaper, the light from outside, and the sign give the feel of a Mexican seaside town.
Finally the patio is uniquely Little Rock. Gone are individual tables on the patio, replaced by a bar that forces your eyes on to Kavanaugh. This space lets Little Rock be the feature point as you chat with passers-by and watch cars run the stop sign a few feet away.
Beverage director Lee Edwards has created some of Little Rock’s most successful bar menus at other Yellow Rocket Concepts endeavors Big Orange and Local Lime. With HTT’s drink menu Edwards completely reinvented his cocktail style by pulling in a very light, crisp, and highly approachable signature cocktail list. Even the strongest drink, the whiskey fix, is perfect for spring sipping on the patio. The signature frozen mojito will be a fan favorite, but don’t miss on the HT&Tea or the two hand crafted mercantile sodas, both can be ordered alcoholic or not.
Let’s get this out-of-the-way, Brownings didn’t survive for 70 years based on the food. It was the location and a bit of the comfort in menu that kept people coming back again and again. The food community has changed dramatically since then however, and eaters expect more from a restaurant.
Owners Scott McGehee, Ben Brainard, and all the kitchen staff led by Amanda Ivy have put a great deal of effort into making sure people come back for food as much as atmosphere. Time will obviously tell as the food settles in, but the initial offering is strong while still being very comfortable.
You will not find a single Brownings recipe on the menu, there are some subtle nods such as the Plato 1947 (the year Brownings opened), but everything is completely fresh and new. It is a concept they are calling Ark-Mex, blending Tex-Mex, delta, and traditional Arkansas flavors together into one menu.
The menu starts off with a wide assortment of dips for appetizers. The dip trio has 5 salsas to pick from, the two standouts being a french onion-like Jalapeno-Onion dip and a Green Chile Salsa featuring hatch green chiles. The staple cheese dip will likely be thought of as one of the best in town drawing inspiration from a number of Little Rock’s signature cheese dips. Not to be missed though are the gulf shrimp which are excellently seasoned and boiled in Lost Forty Love Honey Bock beer, easily a favorite of the table.
As with any good Yellow Rocket spot, there is a strong selection of salads which includes three signature salads and a general side salad. You can also order a small cucumber mint salad as a side. A selection of skillet nachos is perfect as well if you believe salads are best made with a glorious pile of meat, chips and cheese.
Tex-Mex favorites, enchiladas and fajitas, make a strong appearance on the HTT menu. These will easily be the most comforting portion for tex-mex lovers offered up in a variety of ways.
The name-sake tacos and tamales are where most people will go. The only options on tamales are in size, 3 or 6, and with toppings, either chili or cheese dip. Beyond that these are plain, delta style pork tamales, which is the way God intended tamales to be.
Tacos however are another story, there are seven different taco options that can be ordered as a meal or a la cart. All the tacos feature fresh made flour tortillas which really help the tacos shine. There are a few notable tacos here, the pickled fried chicken is very unique and might be some of the best fried chicken strips in town. The braised ground beef is using the same ground beef found on the Big Orange burgers, filling a big need in ground beef tacos in town. The big winner here is the “All Day Breakfast Tacos”, chorizo mixed with ground sausage and topped with a whole soft yolk fried egg per taco. I have consumed an embarrassing amount of breakfast tacos in my day and this one ranks up there highly.
Last but not least are desserts. HTT is partnering with pastry chef extraordinaire Zara Wilkerson to develop a rotating dessert option. Right now that option is a sour cream chocolate cake that was very moist and surprisingly not overly rich. Other standard options will include organic soft serve ice cream in seasonal flavors.
Overall it looks like Heights Taco & Tamale Co. has all the makings to usher in the next era of the former Brownings spot and has all the elements in place at the beginning to have an equally long run. Expect this to be a community hot spot that adds to the overall area and continues to add to the recent culinary revival of the Heights.