Dining » Dining Review

Bumbling through lunch at Bucanas

Taqueria stumbles out of the gate.

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TAKE THE TACOS: You can them by the basket at Bucanas.
  • TAKE THE TACOS: You can them by the basket at Bucanas.

Social media has a way of making things seem better than they are. How does that jerk from high school have such a beautiful life? How did they afford that vacation? Why aren't their kids smearing poop on the walls? A beautiful Instagram photo of someone's lunch tells you little. You can't taste it; you can't smell it. But look how everything is perfectly arranged on the plate!

A friend recently shared a photo of his lunch at Bucanas Billar and Taqueria at the Lakehill Shopping Center in North Little Rock — plates of tacos, rice and beans, baskets of chips, big margaritas and smiling faces. We hadn't even heard of Bucanas, but we had the distinct feeling we were missing out on something fun. Why weren't we eating tacos and drinking margaritas?

We decided to give it a try on a Sunday afternoon. A friendly manager greeted us. The music playing through the speakers competed with the infomercials playing on the TV, mingling into a din that was the opposite of inviting.

A less enthusiastic server came to take our drink and appetizer order. We ordered a small guacamole ($2.99) to go along with our chips and salsa and two margaritas ($3.99 each). The chips and guac were great. The chips were freshly fried, sturdy, salty and crisp. The guac was hearty and fresh with plenty of cilantro, chopped onions and jalapenos. The salsa was unfortunate. It had a mild flavor and soupy consistency. It wasn't worth the hassle of trying to keep it on our chips.

We feel terribly about sending things back to the kitchen, but one of our margaritas tasted as if it were made primarily of salt. Our waitress was more aloof than apologetic. A few minutes later, another arrived. The margaritas are standard fare but come at a price point that makes them go down easy.

We chose an asada taco ($1.25) and a pastor sope, like a taco but with a thicker tortilla ($2.49), for appetizers. The asada taco was tasty. The charred steak had a great flavor, but unfortunately contained quite a bit of gristle. The sope came late after being confused by our server for a huarache (of the edible variety). It was worth the wait. The masa base was a bit spicy and cooked to a crisp, which we liked. The pork was tender, well seasoned and delicious. The sope was topped with shredded lettuce, beans and Cotija cheese. We've had a goodly number of sopes and this one ranks up near the top.

GRILLED ASADA: A bit of gristle marred this otherwise tasty steak taco.
  • GRILLED ASADA: A bit of gristle marred this otherwise tasty steak taco.

Next we ordered a basket of tacos: pastor, asada, pescado, papas con chorizo and carnitas. They're street-style tacos, like those you'll find at most taco trucks ($1.25 each). The pastor taco is well seasoned and the pork is tender. The potato and chorizo was one of our favorites and would make a great breakfast or brunch order. The carnitas taco was juicy and warm and was complemented well by the chopped onions and cilantro on top. The fish taco was our least favorite, probably owing more to the lackluster tilapia it was made from than the preparation.

Our partner ordered the pollo asado with rice and beans ($8.99). Once again, something different came to the table — chicken breast pieces floating in cheese sauce with rice. We sent it back, and about 10 minutes later, our server brought us the pollo asado, which looked appetizing. The chargrilled chicken was covered in grilled onions and served with a side of Mexican rice and refried beans. The sides were perfectly fine, nothing memorable. The chicken was seasoned well and had a great flavor, raising our hopes that redemption came served on this very plate. Unfortunately, eating the chicken was like chewing on rubber, so after our second bite, we gave up.

We asked for the check as soon as we could get our server's attention. She seemed, as ever, inconvenienced. The lovely manager who greeted us when we arrived informed us that the restaurant's credit card machine was down and could only accept cash, which we did not have. She apologized for the inconvenience told us we could just pay the next time we came by. We sought the help of an ATM a few blocks away to settle up because we didn't know when that might be.

Bucanas Billar and Taqueria
3824 JFK Blvd.
North Little Rock

501-904-5630

Quick bite

The guacamole is great, nearing perfection. Definitely splurge for the large. Otherwise, stick with the tacos and sopes over the plates.

Other info

Full bar, credit cards accepted (sometimes).


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