Tuesday, January 5, 2010

El Desayuno Huevos at Casa Manana in Little Rock.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more eye-opening breakfast than that served at Casa Manana.  Forget pancakes and bacon; the restaurant's fine selection of egg dishes come complete with tortillas, beans and enough heat to get you through a cold day like today.

And the coffee's just as hot as the food.

After a chilly three dog night, I walked in with an empty stomach and a hankering for warmth.

I didn't even have to ask -- my server had shown me to my table and I had just managed to get my coat off when she appeared at my elbow with a hearty basket of freshly fried tortilla chips and that cumin-laced tomato-thick salsa I'm so fond of.  She asked me my drink preference.  I went for coffee -- I needed an extra boost to get the warmth to return to my digits.

I dabbled into the chips as she went to retrieve my java.  I let my mind wander, enjoying the impossibly thick-yet-crispy chips and trying to keep the salsa from dripping on my sweater.  I succeeded -- mostly.

She returned with a warning -- the coffee had just been brewed.  Of course I took that sip, and was rewarded with that heat that tells you your throat hates you and you're likely to injure yourself if you proceed further.  Hot coffee, indeed.

She took my order and I relaxed, taking time to write myself a list of the day's chores ahead.  And then I was being presented with the platter, a little cheese dip and warmed tortillas.

The Huevos con Machaca ($6.99, a dollar more for a little cheese dip on top and worth it) is listed under Egg Dishes in the menu like most of the others -- a description, followed by a tiny red word, HOT.  That doesn't even begin to describe the situation.  The heat is a slow one, a spice that's not apparent on first bite but which builds with each successive taste until you're scrambling for a little water, a chip, anything to mute the volume.  Hence the need for the cheese dip, the perfect tempering agent.  Open up a tortilla, spread a little bean on the inside and fork in some beefy egg concoction with a drizzle of the dip.  It is, quite honestly, one of the most filling breakfasts I've had.

The beef, by the way, is the star, though you might mistake the unruly pile of brown and yellow as somewhat dirty scrambled eggs.  It's served up with the beans and what's refered to as Mexican Potatoes, parsleyed steamed new potato chunks that go well dunked in the salsa.

Indeed, when I gave up on completing the platter and returned to the outside world, I was filled with a heat that carried me through the next several hours, a full belly satisfied with the offering of protein and spice I had so generously bequeathed it.

You don't have to go to Casa Manana during breakfast hours to enjoy this sort of breakfast, but you can if you want to.  The restaurant opens at ten Monday through Friday and nine on the weekends.  And if you get the coffee, be sure to ask for a glass of water.  Trust me.

Casa Manana is located on the north side of Cantrell Road next to Damgoode Pies.  There are also locations in the River Market's Oppenheimer Hall and far out on Highway 10.  Check out their website (which yes, has the full menu and prices) or give them a call at (501) 280-9888.

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