Saturday, October 8, 2011
Marlo's Taco Shack
If you live in Northwest Arkansas, it’s hard to throw a stick very far without hitting a Mexican restaurant. They are everywhere, and Fayetteville is no exception. Marlo’s Taco Shack really is just a shack just across from the Harps on Garland Avenue. It doesn’t look like the type place where you would put a restaurant. I came here today because I am starving, and exhausted from doing work near The University of Arkansas. Also, I keep hearing reviews from friends and acquaintances who say things like “Mexican, you know the place I like is Marlo’s.” Or simply “that’s where I go.”
Big wow! The place is very homey inside, and the server is super friendly. The only menu is a large board above the kitchen entrance. I ask the cashier if there is anything vegetarian, and she says “Honey, I can make anything vegetarian!” The menu is divided into roughly seven categories: dinners, salads, burritos, tacos, nachos and singles (tostadas, chalupas and taco burgers). There are a few other interesting items up there too. My favorite is the tailgater bucket of large queso, large guacamole, large salsa and a huge bucket of chips for $15.99. There is also a large entry at the bottom of the menu that says anything can be made vegetarian.
I decide to order an enchilada dinner. It comes with two cheese enchiladas, and my choice of two of the following three: rice, beans and guacamole salad. I decide to omit the rice. They also have Pepsi products instead of Coke. I choose the diet Pepsi. The cashier gives me chips on a paper plate, and a squirt bottle of salsa along with my diet Pepsi. She says that she’ll let me know when my order is up. I am not expecting much from the squirt bottle of salsa, but it is really very tasty. The salsa has substance and a lively taste without being too hot. The chips are just average chips, but I wish there were more of them. In most Mexican restaurants you receive a basket of chips. Here it is just a few (maybe a couple dozen). My order comes up very quickly. The cook says “vegetarian,” and the cashier nods at me to let me know this is for me. There are no waiters or waitresses. It’s like a Mexican McDonald’s on a budget. You come to get the food when it’s done. With drink, my order comes to about $7.
The enchiladas are small but very good. The refried beans have no hint of lard taste, which is always a big plus for a vegetarian. The guacamole salad is my favorite, and the next time I come I think I may just get a large guacamole salad. The lettuce is fresh iceberg like you would prepare at home, and not the shredded stuff you get from a bag like at so many Mexican restaurants. The guacamole is fresh, and mildly spiced. It seems to be heavy on fresh avocado, with minimal cilantro and pepper spices. The food is fresh and refreshing.
One final note about Marlo’s is that it attracts a very interesting range of clientele. I don’t see anyone even remotely Mexican working or eating here, but there are young and old, black and white, students and working class people. It’s a very comfortable place that seems to attract people who want good food at a good price without the corporate feel of fast food restaurants. I think you know by now that I’ll be back soon.