Review No. 85: Cilantro’s Mexican Grill
201 Skyline Drive (within the shopping center campus)
43.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
She Said: While we were seeing Wonder across the parking lot, I decided I was craving a margarita and all good things Mexican, so I gave myself Thanksgiving-week-related permission to stroll on over to Cilantro’s after the movie.
He Said: And I gave myself permission to do what She Said wanted me to do, and made the long trek across the parking lot to eat at Cilantro’s, one of the 28,456,876 Mexican restaurants in the Greater Conway metropolitan area.
She Said: It’s a fun characterization of a fun, inviting restaurant you might go into in Mexico itself, in the tourist areas. I like the faux facades along the walls, that remind me of dining al fresco in San Miguel de Allende. It’s pretty and pleasant, and I like the time and attention that went into creating this space.
He Said: It is a pretty good imitation of a truly Mexican space. And there is a fair amount of space here—doesn’t feel cramped at all.
She Said: I asked for a large margarita, on the rocks. The server didn’t mention all the flavors they have (I do love a mango margarita!), but the traditional was delicious, and I enjoyed it very much. It wasn’t too strong, but was definitely on the adult-beverage end of the continuum. I will order that again.
He Said: I tried for a root beer but was denied. Had to go with a Dr. Pepper. But I did get a free refill.
She Said: You know how you miss a chance to eat something, and then that’s all you can think about? Recently, I was with friends at Riviera Maya in Little Rock, and when my friend’s taco salad arrived, I was filled with regret because that’s not what I had ordered. So, it was a done deal when I arrived at Cilantro’s a few days later that this would be my choice. They offer several salad options, including beef or taco salad in that divine crispy bowl. The shredded, spiced chicken is under the iceberg lettuce, which is topped with sour cream, guacamole and a tomato slice (which promptly got transferred to He Said’s plate). It was all tasty, fresh and satisfying, along with the bowl, of course. I don’t have much use for such greens, though, which deliver almost no food value. It would be better with a darker, tastier mix of greens. I’d pay more for that. As it is, though, it’s not expensive, and I like that it’s not huge. I didn’t feel quite as decadent as I would with a big plate of enchiladas, etc., and the portion size made it a reasonable dinner.
While I waited for my food, I got the guacamole. The menu only lists the table-side option, but you can ask for a little bowl without the big production. Since He Said can’t eat it, I didn’t need all that. The small portion tastes very fresh, as well. I used a little of it for my salad, too, once I had eaten the dollop that came with that.
He Said: They brought tortilla chips and salsa immediately—we had barely sat down. The chips were fresh and I liked the salsa, which was very tomato-y.
This is a one-notch-up variety of Mexican restaurant. That is, there weren’t any combination platters on the menu. Consequently, I decided to order something I would not usually order at a more typical Mexica restaurant. So, as you might suspect, I ordered the salmon: It was Red Chili Glazed Roasted Salmon, and came with poblano rice, vegetables and mango-jicama slaw.
I asked if the red chili glaze was particularly hot, which it was not. Just enough to give your mouth a barely noticeable kick without numbing the taste buds. And I asked for it to be cooked medium. Unfortunately, medium does not seem to mean the same thing here as other places I’ve been. Anyway, the salmon was overdone, as is usually the case in Conway restaurants. But the seasoning did make it pretty tasty anyway. The vegetables, the vast majority of which were zucchini, were cooked in olive oil and were delicious, as was the rice. I’m not a big slaw fan, so my opinion about that is probably not all that fair. In any case, this slaw did not change my mind.
She Said: Friendly, fast and professional. That’s all we ever want!
He Said: Yes. The server was busy but still was quick to take our order, brought it speedily, checked on us, and brought the bill without our asking, but assured us we could dawdle as long as we liked. Those weren’t his exact words, but you get the picture.
What We Got and What We Paid: Small guacamole, chicken taco salad, large margarita, Red Chili Roasted Salmon with vegetables, poblano rice and mango-jicama slaw, and a Dr. Pepper for $36.83.
Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 10 minutes. Kind of astonishing, really. But it made me think the salmon may have already been cooked and had been reheated, which would explain why it was overdone.
She Said: A reliably tasty, fast and pleasant place for Mexican food in Conway, a quite convenient to the movies!
He Said: It was speedy and good food. Next time I’ll probably have something a little more traditionally Mexican.
So… He Said and She Said: Go here for tasty, friendly Mexican food in Conway.
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.