Food & Drink

This Conway restaurant’s authentic Mexican food will make you think Grandma’s cooking

Nothing seems quite more authentic than a grandmother in the kitchen, skillfully and tirelessly feeding her family day in and day out. For a taste of homemade Mexican food, El Calentano of Conway has the perfect blend of meals and snacks, all like abuela would make.

This family-owned taqueria has been a quiet addition to the River Town Plaza for nearly a year now, winning the hearts of locals both Latinos and others. At home in the corner of the shopping strip farthest from U.S. 17, El Calentano is spacious and clean, albeit a little sparse.

Specializing in antojitos, or snacks, most of the menu items here originate as street food and are served in a tapas-like setting. These small plates make it easy to, of course, snack and battle hunger, to have as a side or mix and match items into a tasty meal. A full bar in the restaurant provides libations for thirsty adults needing something a little extra.

Depending on the time of day, customers can seat themselves at a booth or table before being greeted by the server and a complimentary basket of chips with salsa. The menu is short, sweet and to the point with one side in English accompanied by explanations and the other in Spanish.

Street tacos are created with handmade corn tortillas and come in your choice of meat, from chicken and beef to tongue and chitterlings. With the traditional toppings of cilantro and onions, these authentic tacos are $2 each, so trying all the meats isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Sopes, empanadas and flautas (taquitos) are all served freshly fried and topped with lettuce, queso fresco and cream. They typically come with a slice of fresh tomato as well, and sopes also have a layer of refried beans. Just like the tacos, guests can choose the type of meat they would like with their small plates. Though customers can order sopes and empanadas individually, flautas are $10 for 4.

Larger dishes include burritos, enchiladas, and tortas which are Mexican style sandwiches. As so much of the food at El Calentano is, the bread used for tortas is handmade and perfectly fluffy yet strong, necessary for holding the many ingredients together in this hearty sandwich.

On weekends, El Calentano serves traditional soups and stews that take hours to make but are worth every minute. While some of these dishes are meant to be shared with a family, others are rumored to cure hangovers. No matter what reason to indulge in these flavorful and filling meals, they are sure to be popular as the weather finally cools down.

For one person or big parties, for a snack or filling meal, for dining in or taking your food on the go, El Calentano fits the bill. Different regions of Mexico are represented here as fresh food, made by hand, with pride.

If you go

What: El Calentano

Where: 117 River Town Blvd, Conway

Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily

Information: facebook.com/elcalentanoconway, 843-369-0067

Price: $2-3 starters, $5-13 entrees

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