|Browning's Mexican Restaurant as it appeared in the late 1950s.
But yes, even I have memories of a Saltillo platter at the old standby. I think that, for a certain set of Little Rock resident, it was something you had to do at least once.
Today, the Heights Taco and Tamale Company opens in the space that housed Browning's for more than 60 years. I'm sure you've seen the previews... somehow, I didn't make the cut to get in early, but when I do enter the doors as a paying customer, I'll share my experiences. Before I do, though, I should note the restaurant that managed to imprint itself on Ark-Mex cuisine.
|Cheese dip and salsa at Browning's Mexican Grill, 2012.
|John Tom Browning.
Ark-Mex food is different from Mexican fare and from Tex-Mex, too. Ask anyone who's spent a great deal of time in Texas and visited "Mexican" restaurants both here and there. Cheese dip is a
|Boyd Montgomery (on left).
Ark-Mex food has evolved around the inclusion of cheese dip. It tends to utilize more pintos than black beans, darker American and Cheddar cheeses instead of white or Mexican cheeses. Tomatoes are a big part of the equation, fresh and in the salsa. Tortilla chips are thicker, and there's a prevalence of tamales that include chicken and beef in addition to pork.
When that interpretation was still being worked out, abominations were created. For some reason, some of our restaurants here never got over the idea of smothering everything, and I do mean everything, in yellow cheese. Casa Viva, the inferior short-lived successor to Casa Bonita, was accused of using Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup over its enchiladas. There were waves of interest in different things... nachos in the late 70s, fajitas in the late 80s, quesadillas in the 90s and the fish taco in the 21st century.
|Browning's menu from 1949.
|Interior in the early 1950s.
There were many other things on the menu, as you can suspect. Don't think this putting an egg on everything idea is
|One of the original wall murals painted by Mallie Vena.
|Vic Slater once cooked at Brownings.
|The famed Plato de Saltillo.
|A flyer from 1976.
As the years went by, the restaurant expanded. Do you recall the location out on Baseline, or on McCain in North Little Rock, or on the "New Benton Highway?" Do you even recall the New Benton Highway? There was also El Patio on University, which was within my range (yes, my friends, I am originally an 09-er, and if you know what that means, you know what it means) for us to enjoy that pureed "salsa" sauce with yellow chips in a bag that would always develop grease spots. The Browning's flavor, after all, did make it out of the Heights.
|The Mexirrito, my go-to dish from Browning's.
I noticed on the menu for the new Heights Taco and Tamale Company, amongst the offerings, the Plato de 1947. It includes enchilada, taco and tamale... but it's no Plato de Saltillo. No, my friends, that sounds like it may be lost to time.
Then again, Scott McGehee, John Beachboard and Russ McDonough's Yellow Rocket Concepts has managed to bring back other original flavors. Of note is Local Lime's Taco Kid Tuesday, which revives many of the popular items from the old Taco Kid. Perhaps, once Heights Taco and Tamale Company encounters its first few weeks of customers, we'll see a revival of the dish most associated with the old Browning's.
Facebook page active that includes many photos from the eatery's early days.