Uncle Taco is the whimsical mascot of Chef James Best’s newest restaurant. The character reflects the animated atmosphere, but don’t let Uncle Taco fool you, as he delivers some seriously good offerings. Manager Sarah Reeves laughed as she explained the origin of the mascot. “We have fun with Uncle Taco,” she said. “Our staff wears T-shirts that feature him having fun.”
And fun is exactly what the restaurant is all about, along with top-shelf “Ark-Mex” dishes.
Best is known for his successful Skinny J’s restaurants, creative menus, and a keen skill for renovating restaurant spaces. Uncle Taco is located in the thriving downtown Jonesboro Main Street area. Best went with bright, cheerful colors, accentuated with natural light delivered by huge storefront windows. The two-story space is decorated with an upcycled style.
My food journey commenced with The Three Amigos appetizer, featuring tortilla chips and three made-fresh- daily dips. The queso dip includes green chiles, herbs, and a secret blend of cheeses. Uncle Taco’s guacamole incorporates ripe avocadoes, cumin, chile pepper, tomato, and onion. The salsa combines delicious fire-roasted tomatoes, cilantro, roasted jalapeños and onion. Other available salsa varieties are pineapple salsa and salsa verde.
There are nine flavorful taco options that can also be served as salads, bowls, or burritos. Reeves fixed me up with a Carne Asada taco with tasty, grilled flank steak, salsa verde, white onion, cilantro, and lime nestled between a corn tortilla. The Fish taco featured beer-battered cod with pineapple salsa, cotija cheese, cilantro, and chipotle cream on a flour tortilla. Other taco options include: The Basic (ground beef), Carnitas, Smoked Pork, Smoked Chicken, Chorizo, Fried Honey Chipotle Chicken and Honey Chipotle Shrimp.
The Street Corn makes an outstanding side and goes great with any taco.
I also enjoyed a Smoked Chicken Salad. The fresh, smoked chicken was lovingly placed on a crispy, fried flour tortilla and topped with fresh lettuce and sour cream. The combination made me want the whole enchilada, well, salad.
The Eleanor Pie is a Mexican pizza named after Best’s daughter. I loved, loved this creation, which layered flour tortillas with refried beans, cheddar cheese, a fab-o red sauce, pico de gallo and, if desired, a choice of protein. I opted for the ground beef, but other options include steak, chicken, chorizo, carnitas, or smoked pork. I love pizza and Mexican food, and this Uncle Taco creation was easily one of the best items that I have sampled in a few years.
The cocktail menu is clever and very extensive, but I was equally impressed with the “mocktails.” Don’t tell my boss, but I tried a couple. The alcohol-free beverages were fabulous and refreshing.
Brunch is available on Saturdays and Sundays. Uncle Taco calls that service “BrUncle Taco,” with the slogan: “Brunch ’til you say Uncle.” The innovative brunch menu includes lively offerings, such as a breakfast version of the Eleanor Pie.