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 this most ambitious addition, Samantha III, that the business has really come into its 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 women who run the truck, one of the most regular at the University Market at 4 Corners, have added some 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 cane sugar.
Since we're talking taco trucks, let's talk tacos. Samantha's tacos are piled so high 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 spice. The tongue tacos at Samantha are particularly good, with meat reminiscent of high-quality roast beef that is fall-apart tender and juicy.
Tongue is one of those foods that a lot of us Norteamericanos are squeamish about, but we 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 and 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.
The new portion of the menu has separated Samantha from the taco truck pack. Recent additions include tacos and quesadillas filled with succulent shrimp prepared with the staff's usual flair. The last shrimp quesadilla we ordered was so full of the shellfish that they spilled out onto the plate in tasty pink piles. Shrimp is something that we 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 we didn't hesitate for a moment before ordering the seafood. We're 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, the sope, has also become a favorite. 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 we'd consider snack food. They can be made with any of the truck's available meats, and we'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 its food one of our favorites.
Taqueria Samantha III
Various locations, but typically at the food truck hang-out, University Market at 4Corners, 6221 Colonel Glenn Road
An impromptu dinner party? Got to feed a whole crew of Olympics obsessives? The Taqueria Samantha chain has become our go-to spot for feeding a crowd. You can't get a mess of delicious food any cheaper in town.
Usually 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Accepts credit cards.