Mexican Monday Meal-Atta-Glance: La Ranchera Tortilla Sopa (con Pollo) at Rolando’s

Rolando’s Nuevo Latino Restaurante

223 Garrison Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72901

Ok, so Rolando’s isn’t actually Mexican.

But “Nuevo Latino Cuisine Monday”? Not quite as catchy.

Besides, tortilla soup IS Mexican, and the cuisines are close enough cousins that they ought not to be kissing, if you know what we mean.

Don’t know about you, but Fort Smith Eats loves us some tortilla soup. We’ve found that when you’re stuck at a Mexican restaurant and you’re not really in the mood for the standard rice & beans dishes and you’re maybe not tremendously ravenous — or you just want something a little lighter — tortilla soup fits the bill almost always. Almost every Mexican restaurant has some variety of it (though, oddly, not Los Jalapenos, which just has seafood-based soups). Tortilla soup is usually surprisingly filling, affordable, and happy tasting.

Rolando's Restaurante Fort Smith Arkansas Ft Smith Fort Smith Eats Interior Garrison Avenue

Rolando's comfortably cluttered interior looks much nicer than Fort Smith Eats' "comfortably cluttered" abode tends to look.

This is Rolando’s first entrance on the Fort Smith Eats blog, so we’ll go ahead give you the highlights:

  • Nuevo Latino Cuisine —specifically, Ecuadorian, with other Central American influences, done cheffy (our word, just roll with it).
  • One of the most beloved and buzzed-about restaurants in Fort Smith. This is because it rocks. Seriously.
  • Located at the far western end of Garrison Avenue downtown. Nice digs.
  • Everything is good. Some things are great. Most things taste sort of similar, because they use the same base of ingredients — like a very high-end Taco Bell —but no one really minds because they all taste awesome.
Rolando's Restaurante Fort Smith Arkansas Fort Smith Eats Ft Smith Mural

We like the folk art mural a lot, but lady needs a better bra.

Rolando’s has three soup offerings. (Aside: whenever someone says “offerings” like that — they do that a lot in E-Fort Smith magazine, we’ve noticed —we snicker because it sounds like a sacrificial offering to a deity. More soup, fewer live goats, please!)

They’ve got a basic tortilla soup, a shrimp soup, and a chicken soup. Of course they sound more exciting on the menu, because they have flourishy italics names like La Ranchera Tortilla Sopa, Sopa de Camerones, and Sopicaldo di Pollo.

Being suckers for tortilla soup, we opted for it. The only thing that gave us pause was that this tortilla soup was meatless. Whaaaa? Tortilla soup usually has shreds of chicken in it. We wanted to make this a main dish. But the chicken soup (that’s the Sopicaldo di Pollo) is a traditional Ecuadorian chicken and rice soup. Thus, no avocados, limes, or tortillas, all the things that make tortilla soup so appealing. And the shrimp soup had no tortillas. Plus shrimp. Thus, that wasn’t going to do either.

No problem, the server said. Just add chicken. Voila, chicken tortilla soup.


So, with a little modification, we got ourselves a little bowl of soup. Yes, a little bowl. (note: we’ve had it plain, as-menu’ed before as an appy before the main dish. Yum in that sense too.)

Fort Smith Eats Rolando's Restaurante Fort Smith Arkansas Tortilla Soup La Ranchera Tortilla Sopa

That's not a giant spoon, just a small bowl. But it's filled with tortilla soup, and so it is a bright shining example of goodness in the universe. If only it were a three times larger shining example, we'd be great.

To be fair, the soup is listed under appetizers ($5.25 for a bowl, plus whatever they charged for the chicken). There isn’t an entrée-sized option on the menu. Maybe they offer one if you ask, but we didn’t. Our little crock was lovely and full of soupy goodness, but our spoon was clinking the bottom far too soon. We’d like a bigger bowl. Or maybe endless, like at Olive Garden.

As for the soup itself?

The chicken, being added, came in big chunks of chicken breast. We prefer shredded, but the chicken quality was top-notch. The avocado slices were fresh, the soup flavor light and interesting. Tortillas held up well in the soup, absorbent without disintegrating. Had to ask for extra limes, because we like to customize our soup for maximum citrus-yum.

Our mouths tell us this soup is fresh — not bagged soup here, as it lacks that telltale salt-preservative taste. (Sorry, Sweet Bay.)

We were still hungry, so we ordered a side salad (also not on the menu, but just ask). Wasn’t it priddy?

Rolando's Restaurante Fort Smith Arkansas Fort Smith Eats side salad

Priddy side salad. Tangy house dressing, something herby and Nuevo Latinoey.

Verdict: Tasty, but not Rolando’s standard mind-blowingly tasty. Left us wanting more, mainly because there wasn’t much of it. Would we order it again? You betchyer bottom tortilla. But we might have to order two.

7 responses to “Mexican Monday Meal-Atta-Glance: La Ranchera Tortilla Sopa (con Pollo) at Rolando’s

  1. Rolando’s is one of our Fort Smith faves, too. And don’t forget the bar there is the only place in town you can get a caipirinha.

    • Mmm. That caipirinha sounds good. Maybe we’ll start an occasional “Fort Smith Drinks” feature here. What do you think? Recommended cocktails, beers, wines and other concoctions from local establishments? The research could be fun.

  2. True Grit Tattoo Parlor

    This is my favorite place in town. I cannot recommend the Pollo Chuchaqui enough. The food is great the atmosphere is fabulous. I especially like the semi private feeling of dining in the cantina. But with food this good, you could wear blinders and eat it out of a feed bag as long as you got a touch of the sauce from the plate with it, you’d go home happy.

    • Mmmm…Rolando’s feed bags…

      Thanks for the idea for a brand-new way to daydream about feeding our face! Usually we get lost in thoughts of simply licking the plate clean, but the feed bag & blinders will add some creative diversity to our hours of gluttonous reverie.

  3. Rolando’s. Two words. Yummmmm EEEE! I try to evangelize as often as possible. Hands down one of the best restaurants ANYWHERE. And I’ve been to plenty of places! Thanks for the retweet! I’ll be following you!

  4. Miz Max Radcliffe

    I love Rolando’s, too, but quit going several months ago. The “new” bar manager made me one of those fabled caipirinhas but she made it with club soda. I carried my drink to the bar and told her that caipirinhas do not have club soda in them. She proceeded to tell me that “yes, they do,” rather than look up the recipe. I figured she either doesn’t know her business, or she’s trying to increase the bar profits by bilking the clientele. Poor attitude cost them my family’s twice-a-month dinner gatherings.

  5. Aggghhhhh. We hate it when good restaurants do bad things like that. Don’t people get customer service training anymore? Back in our food service days, you got training in being nice and helpful and hospitable to customers about every 18 seconds.

    Even if the caipirinhas at Rolando’s are made differently than the standard recipe, and even if club soda is the new chic ingredient or something, the bar manager should be open to suggestions–and especially to hearing criticisms–from customers. It’s called relating to people, it’s called feedback, it’s called hospitality and kindness, and it’s REALLY NOT THAT HARD. Find out what kind of drink recipe will make the customer happy, thank them for opening up a dialogue with you, and go the extra step to give them a positive experience, people. The only bottom line that truly matters in such cases is the one the customers keep signing on the credit card slips, every repeat visit.

    Hope someone shows this to the Rolando’s folks. They’re too good a restaurant to be pulling this sort of thing. Word of mouth works both ways!

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