Monday, May 27, 2013

Russellville: Taco Villa is Consistanty There.

The original location on 4th Street.  (Kat Robinson)
This is one in a series on historical restaurants in the state of Arkansas. For a look at the Arkansas restaurant timeline, click here.

Russellville has always been the midway point, the place to stop and stretch your legs between Little Rock and Fort Smith along I-40. And for many of us, it was home for a while. It became my home for nearly four years beginning in the fall of 1991, when I began college at Arkansas Tech University.

There are four things everyone who goes to Tech learned quickly at that time: you can stay all night at the Old South if you buy a honeybun; Food4Less is open 24 hours; kite-flying is generally frowned upon in the quad and you can’t get a better taco salad than the big one over at Taco Villa.

These days, the Old South closes at 8 p.m., Food4Less is long gone, the quad is now full of buildings and the new library – but Taco Villa still serves a mean taco salad. Doesn’t matter which one, either.

The counter service hasn't changed a lick.
Location, that is. See, Russellville has TWO Taco Villas. Started two generations ago, Taco Villa on 4th Street has been operating out of a little adobe-pastiche brick shack in the middle of a parking lot. It opened way back in 1974, serving a blend of what has come to be known as Ark-Mex food – which is shorthand for making Mexican-esque dishes the way we tend to do them here in Arkansas. Want authentic? There are plenty of true Mexican places here and there along the way.

A second location was purchased a short time later to take advantage of the great load of Tech students – over on the south side of campus. Boys and girls, you may not know this, but that location started out as the second location for Feltner’s Whatta-Burger. Really!

Nachos fill the entire box.
It’s always been a family operation, just different families. I know when I started in school it was the Spear family that ran the place. The Kittermans bought both locations in 1993, and there was concern that things would change – but as far as I could tell, that didn’t happen. In fact, nothing really changed for years… well, the prices, a little. You can still get that TV salad, or the huge plate of nachos, or the burrito – a two-handed full-of-everything burrito. The meat blend is still the same – not as spicy or salty as other fast food-ish taco places, but consistant – and it’s always served with a heaping pile of shredded lettuce and that American-Cheddar blend cheese.

The soft taco, exposed.  
And the secret about the taco salad? It’s the exact same thing as the nachos, except upside down – the lettuce goes on the bottom with the salad with the chips on the side, while the nachos are the chips on the bottom with the cheese and stuff and lettuce all on the top. Taco Villa also does right by still melting real cheese on its nachos, rather than pouring it on over.

You can still get a Super BS (it’s that two handed Burrito Supreme) after all these years, and you can still feed anyone for under $10 – and I do mean anyone. When you’re in town next time, check it out.

The menu, circa 2009.

Taco Villa on Urbanspoon

4 comments:

  1. When Andy Dwyer talks about the "meat torpedo" burritos on Parks and Rec, he means these babies. They would put any burrito bar's concoctions to shame.

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  2. Poppycock. The "second" location was Senor Bob's Taco Hut.

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  3. Was. But Mr. Richard sold it a long time back. It's been Taco Villa on North El Paso for quite some time. https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Taco+Villa,+North+El+Paso+Avenue,+Russellville,+AR&hl=en&ll=35.289295,-93.13617&spn=0.000586,0.001321&sll=35.289295,-93.13617&sspn=0.00059,0.001321&oq=taco+villa+&t=h&hq=Taco+Villa,&hnear=N+El+Paso+Ave,+Russellville,+Pope,+Arkansas&z=20&layer=c&cbll=35.289392,-93.136166&panoid=tBhaT3nmVf4TYz6IeHn20A&cbp=12,95.14,,0,0

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  4. Jordan Kitterman AndersonMay 31, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Correction: The Kitterman's did NOT buy the El Paso location until 2003!

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