Review No. 45: El Acapulco
201 Skyline Drive #40
25.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said: Jones had been having a busy week, and wasn’t able to do lunch until Friday, so by then I was itching to get out among Conway’s finest and have myself some lunch, Mexican style. The target for the day was El Acapulco, one of the 16,325 Mexican restaurants in Conway, and one of two located near the movie theaters in Conway’s Town Center, ludicrously spelled “Towne Centre”—“centre” I suppose because that’s the way the British spell it, and it has to be a classy place if it eschews American spelling in favor of the Brits, and “towne” because…well, for no logical reason at all except perhaps if you’re going to ignore the rules of spelling and end one of the words of your name with an “e,” you might as well throw a random “e” at the end of the other one as well. But I digress.
“El Acapulco” at least is spelled the way you’d expect. There are actually some six “El Acapulco” restaurants around Arkansas, including locations in Jonesboro, Hot Springs Village, Pocahontas, and elsewhere. It’s unclear to me whether they are connected or not, but the one in Conway always seems to be busy, which is a good sign—not only that the restaurant is probably making a profit, but also that it’s a local favorite with a lot of regular customers. Of course, it also helps that El Acapulco is in a prime location—convenient for anyone shopping or heading for a movie at the Town-e Centr-e, and also for anyone heading into or out of town on highway 65.
She Said: Oh, Ruud. Your rants never get old! Yes, we were missing Mexico a bit and we had noticed how many cars are always in this lot when we drive by, so we were both looking forward to lunch here by the time we rolled up.
He Said: We just got back from a week in Mexico, and the interior of this place immediately reminded us of restaurants in the San Miguel area. There are a number of tables and rather cozy booths, and colorful tiles on the walls and tables, and not-even-tacky paintings of Mexican scenes on the walls.
She Said: Yes, El Acapulco reminded me of one of the first places we ate in San Miguel de Allende, Hecho en Mexico, and that made me happy. It’s cozy and the décor is pretty and appealing, and I felt relaxed and as if I were on a short, lunch-long vacation.
He Said: They have Coke products here, as well as the usual iced tea. The menu also claimed that they had Fanta here, which somehow sounded good to me: I was trying to avoid caffeine. But when I ordered it, the waiter said they didn’t have it after all. Chagrinned but undaunted, I asked for lemonade instead, and was successful. It was fine—pretty much what you’d expect lemonade to be like.
She Said: You never know when you go to a Conway Mexican restaurant if margaritas will be an option in our “damp” county, but they are on the menu here. I went with my old standby, the frozen mango margarita. It was lunch, so I chose the small, and I was glad I did. The small certainly looked like a large to me. It was 12 ounces. When it arrived, I checked the menu and saw that the medium margarita is 21 ounces and the “Monster” margarita is 52 ounces. FIFTY-TWO. Seriously, has the FDA approved this?? Anyway, the small was plenty large, very refreshing and tasty.
He Said: The menu here is huge. It could have been a bit overwhelming for non-regulars like us, but we quickly narrowed things down and focused on the lunch menu. There are a number of combos listed as lunch specials, mostly burritos of one kind and another. I opted for the Taco plate, which came with Mexican rice and refried beans, both of which I wanted very badly. I ordered chicken on the taco (keeping to the low-fat end of the menu spectrum) on a crispy taco. It wouldn’t be long before the meal arrived, but in the meantime we had tortilla chips and salsa that the wait staff provided immediately as we sat down. The salsa was mild and very tasty. The chips were fine—a couple of them seemed a little on the stale side.
When the meal arrived, it looked quite appetizing, and I added salsa and some of the beans to the lettuce and cheese that were already accompanying the chicken. It was everything I could have wanted a taco to be—tender chicken, fresh crispy shell, and tasty extras. The rice and refried beans were also very good. Nothing fancy, just what I have in mind when I think “Mexican.”
She Said: I ordered guacamole to go with the chips they immediately put down in front of us, and ordered a small because I knew I would be trying it alone. It was very fresh and delicious; I love it when you can taste the guacamole basics in the dip in all their goodness.
I dithered a lot over my decision, because even though the lunch menu helped narrow the choices, there were still a lot of things that sounded delicious to me. I almost went with some a la carte choices, but in the end the taco salad with chicken sounded best to me. (I love those edible salad bowls that are lighter and crispier than the chips or taco shells.) When it came, at first, I thought they had forgotten the chicken as I turned the lettuce, cheese and guacamole over looking for it, but then I hit the chicken gold mine at the bottom of the crispy bowl and once I stirred it all up, it was more like chicken salad with a little lettuce mixed in. I could only eat half of it as it was so filling. I will definitely order that again, but I hope I’m hungrier and can eat more of it.
He Said: Service was Johnny-on-the-spot. Or maybe more accurately Jose-on-the-spot. As I mentioned, the chips and salsa arrived immediately, and someone took our drink orders less than a minute after we sat down. And it could not have been more than another minute or two before a waiter came and took our order. The meal was on the table in almost startling speed, probably five minutes, certainly no more than ten. The waiter also brought the check without our asking. I assume all of this was because they know that people coming in for lunch probably want to get done quickly if they need to get back to work. It did mean, however, that no one actually offered to refill our drinks, and no one asked if we wanted dessert—and they do have dessert here.
She Said: Yes, they clearly know how to get lunchers in and out. Our servers were professional, speedy and friendly. I agree though that they could offer or ask about more drinks or desserts before plopping down the check.
What We Got and What We Paid: One taco plate, one taco salad, one small guacamole, one lemonade, one small Margarita, all for $25.25.
He Said: A good and fairly typical Mexican food place, as conceived of in the United States, made a cut above most others, it would seem, by the size of the menu, the drinks available and the desserts.
She Said: Yes, I was very pleased with my food, the service and the size of the “small” margarita. This is one of the more convenient traditional American-Mexican places in town for us given our movie habits. We’ll be back!
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for LARGE margaritas, tasty Mexican food and fast service.
Editor's Note: Eat It, Conway is produced by local author Jay Ruud and his wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones). The couple has begun an attempt to eat at and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. The Log Cabin Democrat and thecabin.net are publishing Eat It, Conway with permission from the authors. Visit them online at jayruud.com and on Facebook at Eat It, Conway. In addition to restaurant reviews, Ruud authors movie reviews on the site.