When the lowly burger went high end, when people started throwing around words like "artisanal" in reference to pizza, it was only a matter of time before folks turned the humble taco into something hip, trendy, and far beyond its traditional price point. After all, Little Rock boasts burgers topped with foie gras, pecorino and fig jam — and even one of our food trucks manages to haul around a wood-fired oven to cook their pizza. At its most basic and most beautiful, a taco is something simple eaten to soak up a few cheap beers — preferably, by this reviewer's lights, at a rickety table outside a truck or tucked away in the back of a Mexican mercado. So of course let's slap a veneer of hipster cool on that concept, triple the price of everything, and open in a converted auto garage in an upscale part of town. Thus, The Fold.
The Fold is an attractive dining space. The barely concealed grunge of the joint's auto-garage days has been brightened with paint and filled with comfortable booths overhung with old motorcycles. In lieu of flowers, each table has a cactus growing in an old beer can, a kitschy and whimsical touch that fits right in with a staff that, while courteous, doesn't take itself all that seriously. Navigating the tiny parking lot of the restaurant is a nightmare, but between the shaded patio and interior dining area, nothing else feels cramped or crowded.
Given that the Fold is staking its reputation as much on drinks as eats, we started off with a couple of cocktails and an order of guacamole ($6.50). Our first cocktail, the Sofo, was a delightful combination of gin, lime, and ginger beer with just a touch of fresh mint. This was quite a refreshing drink, well balanced in flavor and perfect for the warm evening. Our second drink wasn't nearly as successful, a blood orange and lime margarita that tasted of little more than the watered down ice. Granted, we didn't spring for one of the more expensive tequilas on the menu, but the mixer was the issue here, not the alcohol.
As for our guacamole starter, it was good and creamy, with a side of tasty seasoned chips. We didn't think the guacamole had been made fresh to order, however, as the color was darker, showing signs of being out in the air for a bit.
Since the Fold bills itself as a "botanas" or "snacks" restaurant, we ordered a selection of tacos ($9 for three) and a bowl of Ceviche Rosada ($12). Our first taco was the Cholula Pescada, an excellent fish taco topped with corn, mango and a tangy jalapeno vinaigrette. This taco was the highlight of the meal, with fish that was flavorful without being overpowering and toppings that worked well. The second taco, the Tejas, was a grilled steak taco with roasted peppers, avocado and Mexican crema. While not as complete a package as the fish, this was still a decent taco, with beef that was flavorful and tender — and much better than our final taco, the Pollo y Poblano, a chicken taco that had no discernible flavor to the meat at all and was helped not a bit by the strange mish-mash of mushrooms and cheese atop it.
If the tacos were a mixed bag of good and bad, the ceviche was just simply terrible. Good quality cubes of ahi tuna were completely destroyed by a cloying mixture of diced mango, orange slices, and avocado — a sugar-bomb of fruit that ruined any chance of actually tasting the fish. When done correctly, ceviche harnesses the acid of citrus to chemically cook fish or shrimp, imparting a sharp, bright flavor to the fish that doesn't overwhelm it, and is best accompanied by some fresh cilantro or perhaps some peppers. This bowl was more an overwrought fruit salad dotted with unfortunate chunks of fish and really put a damper on a meal that had been fairly successful at that point.
Given some time to work out some consistency issues with their tacos and drinks — and perhaps rethink their complete misfire of a ceviche — The Fold could become a hot spot in Riverdale for gourmet tacos. Unfortunately, with a price point well above both the quality and quantity of the food, we can't say that they're executing their menu well enough to join the ranks of the elite taco joints quite yet.
3501 Old Cantrell Rd
11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. until midight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Sunday.
Full bar, credit cards accepted.