Rolando’s Nuevo Latino Restaurante223 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.
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 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.)
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?
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.