If Little Rock has anything that might be called a food truck franchise, it's Taqueria Samantha. For several years, Samantha I and II have provided some of the best tacos in town, but it's with their most ambitious addition, Samantha III, that they've really come into their own. Unlike the other Samantha taco trailers, Samantha III is a full-sized food truck that sports an expanded menu to match its new roomier digs. The ladies behind the truck are some of the most regular and faithful of the trucks that park at the University Market at 4 Corners, and in recent weeks they've added some very tasty new dishes to their already stellar selection. Samantha is one of the best meal values in town, with huge portions available for prices that are almost shockingly low, and the food is made with skill and care and served with a friendly smile. Plus, they sell liter bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola products — the kind still made with real sugar.
Of course, since we're talking taco trucks, let's talk tacos. Samantha's tacos are so large and piled with ingredients that it's sometimes an ordeal to plan a method of attack. They offer a choice of steak, chicken, pork, or tongue with their tacos, and there really isn't any way to go wrong with those choices. Each meat is tender and moist, and seasoned with just the right amount of savory spice. The tongue tacos at Samantha are particularly good, with meat reminiscent of high-quality roast beef that is fall-apart tender and very juicy. Tongue is one of those foods that makes a lot of us norteamericanos a touch squeamish, but I assure you that you're missing out if you avoid it at this truck. Each taco is heaped with lettuce, cheese, and cilantro and served with a fire-roasted jalapeno pepper and a slice of lime. Be sure to take a liberal squirt of the homemade salsa verde provided; it isn't all that hot, but the tangy flavor adds just the right balance to each taco.
If it's something more substantial you're craving, the Samantha burrito will suit you fine. These burritos are a two-handed affair, and unlike some popular chains that serve large burritos that are mostly rice, Samantha gives you the protein you crave in the form of whole pinto beans your choice of meat, wrapped tightly in a flour tortilla and toasted on the grill. For cheese lovers, the quesadilla is loaded with cheese and larger than the plate on which it's served.
It's the new portion of the menu, however, that has really separated Samantha from the taco truck pack. Recent additions include tacos and quesadillas filled with succulent shrimp prepared with the staff's usual flair for spice and flavor. The last shrimp quesadilla I ordered was so full of the shellfish that they spilled out onto the plate in tasty pink piles. Shrimp is something that I would normally be skeptical about ordering from the back of a truck, and it's a testament to the high quality of Samantha's food that I didn't hesitate for a moment before ordering their seafood. I'm hoping that this addition of shrimp to the menu means more things of that nature to come, because a fish taco would really make this menu complete.
The newest item on the Samantha menu has also become my favorite: the sope. A sope is sort of like a tostada, but instead of a regular crispy corn shell, the toppings are piled on a circle of fried masa, the same corn meal and lime mixture used to make tamales. Using masa gives the entire dish a richer flavor, and since the masa shell is thicker and more absorbent than the usual corn shell, it soaks up all the good flavors from the meat and beans. Plus, at only $2.25, it's quite possibly the cheapest lunch in town. Sopes are traditionally considered snack food and not a full meal, but the size and generous portions of the Samantha version really go beyond what I'd consider snack food. Again, the sopes are available with any of the truck's available meats, and I've found that the marinated pork goes best with the rest of the flavor profile.
Little Rock is blessed with several excellent taco trucks, but it's the service and quality of Samantha that makes their food my favorite. You can find Samantha III parked from 11am-2pm Monday-Friday for lunch in the University Market, and as of this week they are now accepting debit and credit cards.