Last night, Sparky asked me if I was feeling adventurous when I told him that I had no desire to cook dinner. I was feeling a little “saucy” and so I said sure, Sparky, surprise me. He directed me down University to Baseline road, to the intersection just next to the Baseline Kum & Go. Just behind the convenience store, in a well-lit store front, is a little place called Eliella Ristorante. The owners are former employees of the local chain, La Hacienda, who wanted to start something just a little less Tex-Mex and a little more authentic Northern Mexico.
The menu is in Spanish, but Sparky and I know just enough to figure it out. We knew, for instance, that Linga probably means tongue, and the Tripe, is well – tripe. While Sparky is a big fan of such “exotic” meats, I tend to be a little pickier about what I will eat when it comes to protein. I haven’t eaten pork or beef since I was twelve and going through a phase. I eventually started eating chicken and fish on a long backpacking trip to New Zealand, where trying to be a vegetarian equaled a diet that consisted mostly of beets.
Anyway, Eliella is a bright, airy sort of place that made us feel immediately at home. The staff was incredibly friendly and patient with our lack of understanding, and even carefully explained the commonality of cactus showing up on plates in Northern Mexico. I’ve never been to Mexico, so I wasn’t at all sure what that yummy green thing was on my burrito when it arrived. I ordered a Burrito Pollo (chicken burrito), which was definitely big enough for a meal. It was spiced just enough, and used well-cooked black beans and rice as filling along with the chicken.
Sparky ordered a Cubano, which is an enormous sandwich topped with several kinds of meat and a fried egg. When this lovely piece of sandwich goodness arrived at the table, you would have thought he was looking at a work of art. “I don’t want to bit into it,” he said, “it’s so pretty!”
Indeed, it was. The flavors of both dishes were subtle, but immensely satisfying. Not only that, but the whole meal was extremely reasonable. Our final bill was under $20.00.
In addition to the sandwiches and burritos, Eliella serves up a series of different tacos which they supplement with a toppings bar that includes some of the freshest salsa, cilantro, and other taco toppings I’ve seen in the city. It appears that the owners are big believers in the use of fresh ingredients. We watched some of the kitchen workers carefully slicing juicy salsa makings in the open kitchen, and a big of pork slowly roasting on a spit-like apparatus. Eliella would be a great choice for lunch, particularly because our meal was at the table in less than ten minutes. The only disappointment was that the place doesn’t serve iced tea, but I think that’s a little too much Arkansawyer-expectations on my part.
You can find the place at 7700 Baseline Road, Suite 800 in Little Rock. Their phone number is 501-539-5355. They are also on Facebook, here.