Over the past couple of decades, Greater Little Rock has been inundated with lots of new Mexican offerings. But there’s one restaurant I keep coming back to.
It is human nature to choose favorites… and while I have endeavored to keep a clear mind about the places I have been over this journey, there are places that when I am home I return to, like a homing pigeon to its coop.
And when it comes to Mexican fare, I tend to return to Casa Mañana.
I remember when it wasn’t so popular, when it was a little restaurant stuck in an old Taco Bell location near UALR off of Asher. It was 1995, and I was recently out of college and on my way into my radio-to-television transition. We were scrapping to make it, of course, and any sort of good deal that could be found was grasped with both hands and utilized well.
Casa Mañana fit that bill, even then. My meager paycheck could usually squeeze out a visit or two amongst the rent and bills us young folks tended to have. And I could always count on leftovers to take home with me.
Of course, as many of us are wont to do, I moved away and grew up, and so did Casa Mañana. The folks that operated it opened new locations here and there -- and were on-board for the Little Rock River Market -- a dream when I left, a reality when I returned in 1998.
Human nature also makes us creatures of habit, and for many many years my husband and I would end up with the same plates -- for him, the impressive Casa Mañana burrito (sans guacamole for him, $6.99 with or without),
However, it is also in our nature as human beings to improvise and experiment, to try new sensations and experiences. So on a Thursday afternoon in January, we decided to drop by and try out dishes we’d never considered before.
After some discussion, my husband decided to go with the Puntas Enchiltepinadas ($8.99), strips of beef cooked with pico de gallo and dried chiles. I decided on the Mole Poblano ($7.99), which seemed like a real departure from my normal choices. What the heck.
Our waitress was ever attentive, as always. We tend to get rather good service -- one of the reasons we keep going back -- though from time to time there is a bit of a language barrier. Some might find this frustrating; not us. There’s never been a time when we haven’t been able to overcome it, and the few times servers have misinterpreted our orders the problems have been quickly resolved.
If it’s warm, check out the deck out back -- a nice hidden oasis that peers out over the valley below. Smoking is allowed on the deck, but not inside.
Casa Mañana can be found at 6820 Cantrell Road in Little Rock. You can call ahead to place an order if you wish to (501) 280-9888 or check out the restaurant’s website.
Check out breakfast at Casa Manana here.
UPDATE 8/31/17: While updating and adding photo credits across the board, I came across this very old post.
Do I still visit Casa Manana? Why yes, yes I do. It's a go-to for my mom and it's comfortable and familiar - to the point where I rarely shoot what I eat any more. But I can share with you so many of the dishes available.
La Taquiza is Casa Manana's typical taco celebration - three tacos with onions and cilantro, with rice and beans on the side, in either flour or corn tortillas. The carne asada tacos are a favorite.
Most of the offerings at Casa Manana are easily adaptable for kids - but one item in particular stands out on the actual kid's menu. It's nacho fries - seasoned ground beef and cheese dip served on French fries. And yes, I have ordered this for myself before.
The Casa Manana tends to come out softer than other restaurant-named super burritos in this area. It's smothered in cheese dip and topped with a creamy tomatillo sauce and sour cream and served with a little salad on the side. Within, beans and rice and your choice of meat. I recommend the shredded beef.
When I get the guacamole, I prefer it without the pico de gallo mixed in. This is an incredible amount of avocado and cheese, and you really should share.
Nachos come with melted cheese, sour cream, refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo on tortilla chips. Add in a meat - such as the chicken on this version - and you really do have a meal for two.
I've developed a new favorite these past few years - the Puntas Poblano. It's beef strips sauteed together with mushrooms, onions and bell peppers, served with tortillas and two sides.
Of course, being a Little Rock restaurant, cheese dip is a must, and at Casa Manana it's white and thick, perfect with tortilla chips or fries - which is how I usually have it these days.
There are three locations of Casa Manana, and they all do their own thing pretty well. The location on Cantrell has a marvelous patio out back overlooking the side of the ridge and does the best green enchiladas, in my honest opinion. The one out on Highway 10 is great for seafood and does the best version of the guacamole, and the taqueria in the Ottenheimer Market Hall in the River Market scores perfectly on the Huevos con Machaca (though due to its location, all dishes there come out in Styrofoam boxes). Still, having those choices means you can get Casa Manana wherever you like.
For more information, check out the website. And for other opinions, read through the Zomato reviews on the links below.
Casa Manana Rock (6820 Cantrell Road)
Casa Manana West (Highway 10)
Casa Manana Taqueria (Ottenheimer Market Hall - River Market)