Food Review: Arandas Tacos Isn’t Foolin’ Around

In recent years, Branson’s food game has really started to diversify. Today, there are Thai restaurants, a few sushi restaurants, an Indian restaurant, and now there is a fantastic, very authentic, Mexican restaurant. Arandas Tacos is not your typical tex-mex joint. Rather, there are options such as tongue tacos or chorizo tortas or tripe sopes. If these sound scary, don’t worry,  they also have chicken and steak options, too. Here’s the breakdown:

The Environment

This restaurant is located in a small shopping center, directly across the street from the Tanger Outlets entrance.
On the inside, it is nothing special. Sort of small, but clean. We arrived for lunch around 1:15, and we were almost the only people there at that time.

The Food

There are two things that are immediately different about this restaurant than any other Mexican restaurant I have been to.
1. You don’t get chips and salsa once you are seated. Rather, you get a basket of “duros”. I had never had these before, but they were pretty tasty. They are simply fried dough, but they are very light and crispy.



Duros, free appetizer

2. There is a toppings bar!!! This is my favorite aspect of this restaurant. There are multiple salsas and toppings, such as mango salsa, cilantro, lettuce, chopped onions, etc, to put on your tacos or any other dish you order.


Since the toppings bar is available, when you order tacos, you simply get two small corn tortillas filled, pretty heavily, with whichever meat you choose.

I ordered 4 tacos for $7.99 and tried the chorizo, cabeza (beef cheek), lengua (tongue), and al pastor pork.
The al pastor was my favorite. It was very tender and not heavy in grease. The chorizo was my second favorite. It was very flavorful, and again, not too greasy. This is usually the problem I find with chorizo. In third place came the lengua. I have had great tongue tacos before, but these were not good, at all. They were a little chewy, probably overcooked. Lastly, the beef cheek was disgusting. It was so fatty I couldn’t even swallow one bite.

Anyway, after trying all of the meat, I headed to the toppings bar to make my tacos pretty and tasty.  I put a light green salsa on all of them. This salsa was flavorful, yet mild, and helped break up the savoriness of the meats. I put mango salsa on the al pastor, onions on all tacos, and tons of cilantro. Yum!

Taco Salad

This was, by far, the best taco salad I have ever had. It was pretty large and only $7.99. I ordered it with chicken, which was perfectly tender and well-seasoned. The toppings were so generous that I did not even have to visit the toppings bar. Three sauces also came with it: a traditional red salsa, sour cream, and a spicy ranch. The spicy ranch got dumped all over the taco salad because it was very tasty! The crunchy bowl was fried perfectly as well, I love those things!  I will definitely come back to order this taco salad every time I am in Branson!


This restaurant is one of my favorites in Branson now. It is unique enough to give you a new type of Mexican food experience, but not so different you aren’t sure what you are ordering.
The staff was very nice as well. Our waitress answered questions about what certain dishes were and offered to refill our duros and waters in a timely fashion.
There is even a coupon in one of those Branson coupon books I picked up from my motel lobby that had 10% off here, so the price was great, too. I will definitely be back…many times.

Food Review: Cilantro’s Mexican Grill could use more cilantro, with special guest, Drew!

This past Saturday, the hubs and I took the four-wheeler around Hector, AR to ride around on some trails.
*Yes, I have my own 4 wheeler and Drew has a dirt bike, but I make him just tote me around on my 4 wheeler when I can, because it is less scary for me and way more fun and romantic.


Anyway, on the way home, we decide to try this newer Mexican restaurant in Conway. I was craving Mexican, and this one had pretty good reviews online. So, here’s the breakdown, from Drew and me!

Drew: I have been to the Cilantro’s in North Little Rock, in Lakewood Village, and I hated it. I can’t remember why or even what I got to eat, but I vowed to never go back. I was afraid this may be the same one, but we shall see.



Cilantro’s is in a shopping center right off of I-40, so it is easy to access. Nothing special about the outside.  However, the inside was large and open, and very clean. (We did show up at 4:00, hence we were almost the only ones there.)


I have decided to start reviewing the bathrooms of restaurants as well. I usually visit the bathroom at a restaurant, even if it is just to wash my hands. Some are great, some are horrifying. As Drew put it, “the bathroom is probably as clean as the kitchen they make your food in”, so I hope this is a welcome addition to our reviews.

This bathroom was very clean. 3 stalls, though a little crowded, great smell, and even good-smelling soap. Thumbs up.


The Food

Happy Hour: We showed up just in time for happy hour, so we both decided on the small house margarita for $3.25.

Drew: Oh yes, this is the same Cilantro’s as in NLR. At that time, celebrating my sister’s birthday with family, I tried the “tamarindo” margarita. It was disgusting, the worst margarita I have ever had. Apparently, I don’t like tamarind.

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Chips and salsa arrived before the margaritas. We each received a rather large portion of salsa with the chips. The chips were not fresh or warm, but they were nothing to complain about. The salsa was very thin, but had enough flavor to be enjoyable. It was not very spicy, but had a slight kick. Nothing special, but no complaints from either of us.

The margaritas (on the rocks) were in a decent-sized cup to be a small. However, there was a lot more ice than margarita. The taste was very sweet, too sweet. And they may have forgot to add the tequila? I couldn’t taste a lick of alcohol, anyway.

Drew: This was better than the tamarindo margarita I had on the previous trip. However, it was the second worst margarita I have had. Not worth it at all.


The menu was very large and it took us probably 10-15 minutes to decide what to get. We both settled on the tacos and more section of the menu:


I ordered the fish tacos ($9.25) with the jicama-mango slaw (I was VERY excited about this, I hate the regular side of rice at most Mexican restaurants) and the barracho beans.


The plates were huge, and this was no exception. The tacos were each about the size of my hand. There was plenty of slaw, and even though that cup of beans looks tiny, it was plenty.

Let’s start with the tacos. At first glance, the amount of fish in each taco was shocking…in the worst way. Each taco had one tiny, thin, about 2 inches in length, piece of fried fish. I believe it was tilapia.


Upon eating the taco, you had to take two bites to even get to the fish and toppings (lime sauce and pineapple pico de gallo). The fish was very dry. I love a crispy fish, but this was so thin it was way overcooked and hard to chew. The “lime sauce” tasted like straight up sour cream. The pineapple pico was very tasty. All-together, there were about two good bites for each taco, with lots of extra corn tortillas. It also definitely needed salt to accentuate any flavors. Oh yea, and can I get more cilantro on my dish from a restaurant named “Cilantro’s”?  Not my favorite.

Drew: While I didn’t want to admit it at the time because Amy was NOT happy, I enjoyed the fish taco I took from her plate. Hey, we always share plates, don’t get worked up. Yes, the fish was tiny and dry, but the rest of the taco made it very tasty.

Next, the jicama-mango slaw: Also needed salt, and more lime juice….and more cilantro. There was a lot of thick-cut jicama and a smaller amount of small bites of mango. While I love a jicama salad/ slaw, etc., this was not that great. Too much bland jicama. However, this was still better than regular ole rice! I did eat most of it. I also felt it was healthy, which made it seem more enjoyable.

Lastly for my dish, the barracho beans: love! Finally, a dish with enough salt and flavor. These beans steeped in a porky sauce (there seemed to be pieces of bacon or some other form of thin slices of pork) were very tasty.

Drew ordered the carnitas tacos with the same slaw and the refried beans for $8.25.


Same size plate, slaw, and beans. However, and the pic does not do it justice, the amount of carnitas on each taco was huge! They really piled the pork on! It was topped with cilantro, onions, and a slice of avocado.

The tacos were friggin’ great! This may be the best carnitas taco I have ever had, and Drew agrees. There was so much meat. It was cooked perfectly. It was sweet, but not too sweet. There were no inedible fatty bites. It was good! The toppings were few, but were perfect because you wouldn’t want to cover up the star of the show…you know, the carnitas I keep raving about.

Drew agrees with me on the slaw, he didn’t finish his.

The refried beans were definitely from a can, and way too salty…because they are from a can.

Drew: My tacos were delicious, which is way better than whatever I ordered during my last trip. The beans were good, as well. The slaw was a refreshing change, but needed some work.


Amy: I would not volunteer to come back here. If I do, I will not “indulge” on the “alcoholic” beverages. And I will order the carnitas tacos. Nothing but the carnitas tacos is worth returning for.

Drew: This experience was better than my first in NLR. The environment was very clean. The service was fine. The menu was large, but didn’t seem to have too much variety from the typical Mexican restaurant. However, I love a good torta and there was not one on this menu. Though, I think the tacos and sides were better than most Arkansas Mexican restaurants. Would I return? Probably not, though. Amy cooks too well to waste a meal on food that is not delicious. Plus, I like my margaritas way better.