Posts tagged arkansas

Tio Wally Eats America: Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2 — Take Three

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Rogers, Arkansas.

Greetings from Rogers, Arkansas
N 36° 19.0368’ W 094° 7.6424’ Elev. 1355 ft.

It’s funny how you can go to the same place time and again and then some little thing changes and it kind of chafes your hide. So it was on my latest visit to Pupuseria Salvadoreño #2.

I ordered a large marañon, the aguas frescas made from cashew apple that I first discovered in Provo, Utah. They have two sizes here, medium and large ($2.00). When I ordered it, I joked to the waitress that since refills were free I should probably just order the medium ($1.00). But I never do that because I don’t mind spending the extra buck for a couple of reasons: first, it sometimes takes awhile to get the refill and, second, I don’t mind spending the money for such a taste treat.

But then the waitress said they charge a buck for the refill. Whatever. That’s still pretty fair, although I’ve never been to a Latino restaurant that charged for refills of aguas frescas. And they didn’t used to here. When I got the bill, however, I discovered she’d charged me the full $2 for the refill. “Oh,” she said, “the refills on the mediums are a dollar.” I know it’s only a dollar but, well, it’s the principal. Waaaaaah! Moving on.

On this visit I decided to try something a little different, so I ordered the Mojarra Ranchera (Ranch Style Red Snapper). I’m not sure what I was expecting. On the menu they had a picture of the Mojarra Frita (Fried Red Snapper), which was a whole deep-fried fish. I kind of assumed the fish in the Mojarra Ranchera would be a filet. I thought this, of course, because I’m about as bright as a 20-watt bulb in an unplugged lamp.

06 plate

It turned out the Mojarra Ranchera ($9.50) was a whole deep-fried fish as well, smothered in sautéed tomatoes, onions and jalapeño peppers, and served with rice and beans, some shredded iceberg lettuce, and three pupusas (thick corn tortillas). Oh, and a fork.

The skin on the fish was really crispy and quite hard. So hard, in fact, that it was nearly impossible to get the fork through it. Thankfully the fish was scored and I was able to get the skin between the tines of the fork and kind of twist it and break it open. Once I got inside the flesh was really tasty, nice and moist. The combination of the skin and meat were quite a juxtaposition texture-wise.

It turned out to be kind of a chore to eat, often having to sift through all the little bones. Occasionally the meat would pull away from the rib cage intact, but not very often. In all it was very good, and the tomato, onion and jalapeño complimented it nicely. But like I said, it was somewhat of a chore. It most assuredly would’ve been a lot easier to eat with chopsticks.

As I ate I kept thinking that there wasn’t a lot of meat there. But much to my surprise I soon found myself stuffed. Throughout the meal that poor fish kept staring at me with a deep-fried frown on its face. It made me feel sort of guilty. Being a white guy from a processed-food nation I’m not used to my food staring back at me like that.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually red snapper. Judging by the price, as well as the shape of its head and the size and placement of its deep-fried eyes, I suspect it was probably tilapia. It’s pretty common for restaurants to advertise snapper and substitute tilapia.

I also got a couple of tamales (one pork, one chicken, $1.25 each) to go. Central American tamales are simply the best. They’re wrapped in banana leaf rather than corn husks. As a result the masa (dough) is very moist and has a light, fluffy, almost cake-like texture. The filling in them is chunks of meat and cubes of yuca (cassava). Additionally, they serve them with curtido (a slaw of sliced cabbage, grated carrots and sliced jalapeño peppers) and salsa roja (red salsa) on the side. The silky texture of the tamal along with the crunch of the cabbage is truly a great combination.

And unlike the new just-to-piss-me-off aquas frescas refill policy, there was still no charge for the curtido y salsa.

And so we roll.

Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2, 1601 South 8th St., Rogers, Arkansas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.


Tio Wally Eats America: Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Rogers, Arkansas.

Greetings from Rogers, Arkansas
N 36° 19.0368’ W 094° 7.6424’ Elev. 1355 ft.

I seem to be going in really loopy circles lately. I guess that’s just how my mind works. What’s weird though is I’ve also been eating at many of the same restaurants I’ve written about previously. Or so it seems. Today I’m back at Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2.

I’ve hit this place a few times over the last couple of years. In the past I always had Chile Rellenos because they stuffed them with meat. Evidently I’ve not been here for much longer than I knew. The meat-stuffed rellenos are history, 86ed from the menu. That’s bad for me. But business has picked up, which is good for them.

Due to the absence of my usual fare I decided to put my fate in the hands of my teenaged server. What would you get, I asked? “I really like this,” she said, pointing to the Caldo de Pata ($7.70). I thought that would be good; after all, “Shank Soup” was written in English underneath, and I like shank. So I ordered it. “I hope you like it,” she said.

Now, it’s understood that the shank is the shin or lower leg portion of an animal’s leg, right? It’s analogous to a pork hock. Right?

Well, not here. Not at all. Here it turned out to be a cut from a little lower on the leg: a Freakin’ Hoof! Gadzooks!!

I don’t want to criticize what other cultures might find delicious, but a freakin’ cow foot is not really the tastiest, much less meatiest, part of the animal. Indeed, the “meat” is a bunch of fatty, cartilage-ish, semi-gelatinous gunk wrapped in and around a hell of a lot of bone. Moreover, the “meat” doesn’t even have the courtesy of being the consistency of stewed chicharrón (essentially pork fat, which I like). In short, it’s largely flavorless and not worth messing with.

The rest of the Caldo was damn good, however. Indeed, it was muy rico y muy sabroso (very rich and very tasty). I liked it very, very much. I just wish there’d had been some edible form of meat in it, like in a Caldo de Res (beef soup).

The soup was served with the obligatory lime quarter, and fresh chopped onion and cilantro. I also got a large Agua Fresca de Melon (cantaloupe fruit juice) for $2.

As I was waiting for my server to hoof it out with my hoof soup I kept staring at a handwritten sign on the wall. The sign was written in Spanish; Si quiere tamales o pollo oreneados aga su orden con tiempo para Thanksgiving. The part I could translate with my remarkably bad Spanish reminded people to order tamales in time for Thanksgiving.

I knew Pupuseria Salvadoreña didn’t previously offer tamales. Now they’re on the menu — pork or chicken — for $1.25 each! So I ordered three to go. They came with a bag of pico de gallo (latino cole slaw) and a little thangy of salsa.

While people may be familiar with tamales, there are actually two very distinct versions of these latin delights: Northern and Southern. In the North they wrap the tamal — It’s called a tamal, damn it; tamales is plural — in corn husk. These tend to be dry, dense and somewhat grainy in texture.

In the South they wrap them in banana leaf. I don’t know if the recipe for the masa (dough) is markedly different. The end result, however, is like day and night. The banana-wrapped ones are cake-like, light, fluffy and, to me, a bit sweeter tasting.

While I’ve had a few tamales I didn’t care for (mostly because they were dry, stingily stuffed, and little more than masa tubes) I’ve never had a bad “Southern” tamal. Does that mean that Salvadoreños (or any other Central Americans) make better tamales than Northern Mexicanos? Hell yes! But hey, they work with what they’ve got.

After all was said and done at Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2 I was fat and happy but disappointed. The soup part of the Caldo de Pata was great but the Pie (Spanish for “foot”) sucked. To make it worse, all the latinos were ordering some chicken deal that came with a bowl of chicken-and-rice soup, a side of rice, pupusas, and half a grilled chicken. F#@K ME!!!!!!!!!

More proof: It’s tough being a white guy with few smarts, armed with even less discernible knowledge of other cultures. Pero trato. Está todo bien.

And so we roll.

Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2, 1601 South 8th St., Rogers, Arkansas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: KFC’s Chunky Chicken Pot Pie

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Clarksville, Arkansas.

Greetings from Clarksville, Arkansas
N 35° 27.197’  W 093° 27.954’  Elev. 328 ft.

If you sail the Interstates for a living, eating fast food is an inevitability. Eventually you will be tired enough or hungry enough or it will be the only thing available or whatever. It’s going to happen. While I avoid fast food as much as possible, sometimes there are actually good things to be had, occasionally at a reasonable price.

Here’s another example:

I have a very dear friend who hates — HATES! — Kentucky Fried Chicken chicken with a frighteningly deep-seated passion. I don’t understand why, exactly. But I suspect he’s hated it since before Yum! Brands bought Harlan Sanders’ singular claim to fame and changed the name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, effectively removing any charm the chain ever had. Yet he likes either Swanson or Banquet (frozen) Fried Chicken; I can’t remember which brand.

But what does this too-wordy, purely aberrational introductory unconclusion mean to you? Absolutely nothing. I’m merely highlighting another one of life’s mysteries that the entire crew of the SS Me So Hungry has failed to figure out. Heck, even crack lead navigator Skippy scratches his head; of course, he’s always scratching his head. (Does scurvy make your head itch too?)

Personally, I kind of like KFC’s Original Recipe fried chicken. Sure, it’s greasy and grossly overpriced but I like it. However, I rarely eat it. The only time I do is when I run across an all-you-can-eat Colonel’s Buffet, it costs less than $6, I can park nearby, and there’s not much else around.

There is something KFC makes, however, that I think even my friend would like, especially if he didn’t know it was from KFC: Chunky Chicken Pot Pie.

Lord knows it’s hard to find a good chicken pot pie anywhere, much less on the road. And as we’ve learned, sometimes a pot pie isn’t even a pot pie at all. Lately, however, KFC has reintroduced its Chunky Chicken Pot Pie, and they are excellent. In fact, I was trying to think of when I’d had better and couldn’t.

It’s rather bizarre: KFC introduced them years ago, had them for a while and then suddenly didn’t. Then the pies reappeared and just as quickly disappeared again. Hell, they became the chicken pot pie equivalent of sea serpents — you never knew when they were going to pop up.

Currently KFC is offering its Now-you-see-’em-Now-you-don’t Chunky Chicken Pot Pies for $3.99. And unlike a certain Pennsylvania Dutch concoction, it actually resembles a pie, with a light, flaky crust (top only) that’s chock full of chunks of chicken, carrots, potatoes and peas, all bathed in a tasty gravy.

But are the decent-sized (6”?) pies really worth $4? YES!

Why the geniuses at Yum! Brands don’t keep the Chunky Chicken Pot Pie as a regular menu item is beyond me. With any luck they will. They’re delicious and, according to at least one Colonel-ette, extremely popular. More importantly, I love ‘em.

I wonder: Did a signature white-suited Harlan contact Yum! Brands from the afterlife to persuade and/or haunt them into reintroducing Chunky Chicken Pot Pies without consulting me, without giving me a courtesy heads-up?

Freakin’ clown! Oh, wait. Wrong McRestaurant.

—> Note: The museum-quality photo of the Yum! Brands KFC Chunky Chicken Pot Pie box, while unquestionably “a Classic”, was taken on the step of the yacht. To the best of my knowledge there are no fuel vapors and/or risk of explosion associated with KFC’s Chunky Chicken Pot Pie. Indeed, it’s merely another example of freakin’ trucks screwing up my inimitable, world-class photography. Nevertheless, I wish to extend my sincerest apologies for any alarm and/or confusion this unfortunate photographic merger may have caused. Please be aware, however, that while (to the best of my knowledge) a KFC Chunky Chicken Pot Pie will not release harmful vapors and/or explode, its contents are, in fact, HOT, and should only be eaten with appropriate caution. Enjoy! <—

And so we roll.

KFC, nationwide

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Ole Hickory Bar-B-Que Express

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Portia, Arkansas.

Greetings from Portia, Arkansas
N 36° 05.246’ W 091° 04.178’ Elev. 270 ft.

The adage “If something is too good to be true, it probably is” is generally spot on. However, there are rare and, in this case, spectacular exceptions.

I was driving north out of Jonesboro, Arkansas on US 63 one evening and saw an intriguing sign. It read: BBQ, 5 BBQs ONLY $5.99. Naturally, I was curious as hell, not only as to what a “BBQ” is, but what do you get five of for 6 bucks? Unfortunately, by then I was on a narrow WPA-era two-lane bridge and couldn’t turn around.

(As you probably can’t imagine, turning a 40-ton land yacht around isn’t quite as easy as, say, a puny-assed car. In fact, until you’ve had to do it you’ll never fully appreciate what it actually involves. But take my word for it: It’s much, much easier said than done.)

Nevertheless, I made a mental note that the next time I went by the place I would stop. I had to know.

Well, I was on the same stretch of highway headed south and was able to stop at Ole Hickory Bar-B-Que Express and find out. And, boy, am I glad I did.

The “BBQ” turned out to be barbecued pork sandwiches. The pork is smoked Boston Butt, chopped and served on a grill-warmed hamburger bun, with a little barbecue sauce and, if you want, cole slaw on it. And to be succinct: These bastards are freakin’ awesome!

The lady chops the meat as the sandwiches are ordered, so it remains really moist. At first I thought it didn’t have enough barbecue sauce on it but, as I took another bite, it hit me: This is exactly how barbecue should taste, with the flavor of the hickory smoke wafting through without being covered up by sauce. Moreover, the sandwiches have about in inch of the scrumptious meat generously piled up. Freakin’ awesome, I says.

According to the menu board, these little gems normally sell for $1.99. At that price they are still a steal. But jeez Louise, a bag of ‘em for $6.51 after tax?! That’s not a steal — that’s akin to a dine-and-dash, if not an out-and-out robbery!

But Ole Hickory Bar-B-Que Express really needs to put a warning label on these things, reading: DO NOT EAT OUR BBQ WHILE OPERATING LARGE MOVING OBJECTS. Seriously. I dropped a teensy little piece of that awesome chopped pork on my lap and … thankfully, no one was injured or killed during the ultimately successful search for the morsel. It was delicious.

And so we roll.

Ole Hickory Bar-B-Que Express, 308 W. Front St. (US 63), Portia, Arkansas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Ron’s Family Affair

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Greetings from West Memphis, Arkansas
N 35° 08.804’  W 090° 10.644’  Elev. 271 ft.

I asked a loader (the guys who load the trailers) where I could get a good home-cooked meal and he sent me to Ron’s Family Affair.

I was really wondering if I was going to be able to find it. The guy had a really thick accent and I found him extremely difficult to understand. I thought he was saying “Runs.” When I encounter lingual situations like that I always feel stupid having someone repeat something more than three times. Nevertheless, I found it.

Ron’s Family Affair is a funky little meat-and-three-sides place, except you only get two sides. I got the smothered pork chops, steamed/boiled(?) cabbage, black-eyed peas and cornbread, along with a sweet tea ($6.50).

First off: Ron evidently owns a very, very large salt shaker. And he’s not afraid to use it. This can sometimes be an issue, for me anyway, at some soul food places. And Ron, evidently, has a little less fear than others. Thankfully, he wasn’t fearless enough to take it completely over the edge.

The smothered pork chops were extremely lean and tender. And though the gravy was a bit salty, the generous portions more than made up for it: two great big pork chops. The cabbage wasn’t too salty and was really flavorful, with that wonderful sweetness that cabbage gets when it’s cooked. He was probably also using a bit of bacon grease. Yum.

Ron’s black-eyed peas, however, were another story altogether. I’ve been eating black-eyed peas my whole life — over 23, 27 years! —and these were easily the best I’ve ever had. They were so good, in fact, that I got a side order and another piece of cornbread to eat with my leftover pork chop.

But for the life of me I can’t figure out what he did. When I make black-eyed peas I mix a can of peas and a can of stewed tomatoes together and heat ‘em up. The peas get the sweetness of the stewed tomatoes, and Ron’s tasted very similar. But there was no evidence of tomatoes in them. And it wasn’t the ham hock because I’ve used them, too. It was something else.

As I was leaving I told Ron that his black-eyed peas were the best I’d ever eaten. I wanted to ask him what he did but he didn’t seem all that interested in talking to me, even as I was heaping a plethora of praise on his peas. He just said something like “Good,” and promptly disappeared back into the kitchen. So much for learning the secret of Ron’s black-eyed peas.

Ron also made some pretty mean cornbread. Of course, I’m of the mind that there is no such thing as bad cornbread. It’s just that some cornbread is better than others. And Ron’s was definitely some of the better.

Ron’s sweet tea on the other hand sucked … blue whale! Judging by the awful telltale phony lemon aftertaste it was undoubtedly from one of those disgusting mixes formulated by Dow Chemical or Monsanto or some other evil monstrosity masquerading as a people-friendly concern.

The really disappointing thing about Ron’s, however, was me. I should’ve ordered one of that day’s other meat selections: Neck Bones. As I was driving away it occurred to me: neck bones probably taste a lot like ox tails, which I love. Seriously, What’s the difference between neck bones and ox tails? Six feet? Next time I’ll try them and report back.

And so we roll.

Ron’s Family Affair, 526 E. Broadway, West Memphis, Arkansas

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

Tio Wally Eats America: Pupuseria Salvadoreña

I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is at Pupuseria Salvadoreña in Rogers, Arkansas.

Greetings from Rogers, Arkansas
N 36° 19.048’  W 094° 07.695’  Elev. 1355 ft.

I love pupusas. But what are they? Well, best I can figure they’re a cross between a tortilla and a hoe cake that I guess only Salvadorans make. Often they’re plain and served in place of a regulation tortilla. But they also stuff them with all kinds of things, like cheese, beans, meat, what have you. (The complete list is on the left side of the menu.)

I found Pupuseria Salvadoreña when I was picking-up at Tyson’s, the evil corporate chicken pluckers and packers; it’s located a half-block from the plant. Still it took a while to find because the storefront is so unassuming.

They have two locations in Rogers. While I suspect it’s actually easier to park (in the Merchant of Death parking lot) at the #1, I like to go to this one. It’s important to be a repeat customer and, at this one, I can hide out in my trick parking spot and take a nap if I want.

I like to get the Chile Relleno ($7.70) stuffed with meat. I still haven’t determined exactly what kind of meat it is but it’s definitely some cut of beef, and stewed to tender perfection. It’s served with rice, refried beans and two or three pupusas, depending on how they’re feeling(?).

Usually the refried beans are just too salty for my taste. So today I asked for frijoles de la olla (literally, beans of the pot). That’s the whole beans before they smash them up. (Most Mexican restaurants have these if you ask.) Unfortunately, they didn’t have any.

Today, however, the beans weren’t salty at all — the sauce on the relleno was! Still, it was really good, plus I hadn’t had one in awhile.

Whenever I go here I also order Bistec de Rez ($7.70) para llevar (to go). It travels well and is actually really good cold. Unfortunately, I ate it all before I took a picture. Next time.

Bistec de Rez is found in virtually all latino restaurants under various names, such as Bistec a la Mexicana, Bistec Ranchero, etc. It’s usually grilled flank steak (I think), with onion, tomato and bell pepper in a ranchero sauce. Theirs is really good although I’ve failed every time to get them to make it picante (spicy) enough. Still, it’s really good.

Along with the meal I got a giant Aguas Frescas (literally, fresh waters). Although they start with a mix, they add a bunch of crushed fruit to it. Today they had what she called Piña y Mango (pineapple and mango) but here they actually make it with apple in it as well. It’s got all kinds of really good pulp in it and takes a bit of sucking skill to get it up the straw.

They didn’t have one of my favorite aguas frescas that they make there sometimes: Melon (cantaloupe). They don’t make my all-time favorite aguas frescas here: Sandia (watermelon) and Piña y Pepino (pineapple and cucumber). I know pineapple and cucumber seems an unlikely if not bizarre pairing, but it’s incredibly delicious. It’s so weird: You can actually taste both the pineapple and the cucumber. Very strange but very refreshing. If you ever get a chance to try it, do so.

I really like the food and the folks here. They tolerate me and my incredibly bad Spanish, which I appreciate. And today there was actually another white guy in there, the first I’d ever seen in there.

(By the way: Jason once visited a Spanish restaurant and wrote that he and his compañero “were the only white guys in there.” Well, I don’t know if his parents or his sister never told him, or the fact that his folks owned a Chinese restaurant never tipped him off, but Jason is definitely not a … oh, never mind. Don’t tell him. It’s probably too late anyway, him being a Gator and all.)

And so we roll.

Pupuseria Salvadoreña, 1612 S. 8th St., Rogers, AR  479.636.1214

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.