Once a month or so, my partner and I fly to Arkansas to visit his son (who turns five in May).  Now, Arkansas (and, if I may make a sweeping generalization here, the South in general) is not known for its selection of healthful, ovo-vegetarian-friendly food offerings.  I often return from trips to Arkansas feeling leaden and greasy and craving fresh vegetables.  So we’re always on the lookout for places to get food that can a) meet my dietary requirements, b) also meet the requirements of the five-year-old, and c) will be reasonably healthy.

This past trip, we found such a place!

We were on our way south from the NW Arkansas Regional Airport (which involves first driving about half an hour on winding back roads, as the new expressway doesn’t go anywhere near the airport) when I saw a billboard advertising Oseguera’s, and claiming to be voted “The best Mexican food in Arkansas”.  (My apologies for the website – it’s chock full of really annoying visual effects.  Yow.)

Sounds good, we say.  We stopped at what I’m assuming is the original restaurant, in Springdale (there are now two other locations).  The outside was unprepossessing.  The interior was a combination of typical Mexical Kitsch (bright carved chairs and tables, etc.) and interesting touches like log-cabin style walls, and cloth napkins that were woven and brightly colored, much like the textiles ‘typical’ one finds in Central America.

They started us with the obligatory tortilla chips (unremarkable) and a trio of salsas – one green and spicy (Jeff says it was fantastic), one medium with a remarkable smoky flavor, and one warm ‘sweet’ salsa that neither of us much liked.  That smoky salsa though… wow.

There were plenty of vegetarian offerings (I never did get the avocado rolls, although I really must try them next time, although sadly I’ll have to pass on the lime sour cream sauce).  I had the vegetable chimichanga (Okay, it’s fried, but it was day one of our trip), which came with beans and rice.  Jeff had a combination platter, consisting of a cheese enchilada, spinach enchilada, and vegetable tamale (also with beans and rice).  I requested everything without dairy (no cheese, no sour cream) and no peppers (I don’t like peppers).

The food was FANTASTIC.  My chimi was stuffed with fresh, lightly sauteed vegetables (no peppers!), such as squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.  The wrapper was golden but not soggy with oil.  The rice was lovely – it had corn in it, which I love.

But the beans, wow, the beans.. they were mashed more than I’m used to, but the flavor was magnificent.  I have no idea what was in those beans.  Not lard, I’m presuming, since they were labelled as vegetarian.  But something crackalicious.  Yum.

The portions were huge – we each came away with enough food for an entire second meal (two more, in my case).

The next day, we were out and about with the kidlet and decided to catch dinner at the College Rd. location.  Sadly, our visit there did not live up to the standard the first location had set.  Our waiter obviously had difficulty making out what we were asking, but instead of asking for clarification, he just brought us the wrong things (or forgot things).  Such as:

-I pointed at the kidlet and asked for a cup of milk (with a lid), after we’d ordered our own drinks.  He brought a cup of diet coke.
-I asked for veg enchiladas, no cheese/dairy, with the green tomatillo sauce.  He brought them with no sauce whatsoever, and was grumpy about going back to get sauce put on them.
-We ended up piling empty/used plates (dishes of salsa, chip basket, etc.) at the end of the table to make room for the food, and it was never bussed.

Foodwise, we were somewhat disappointed as well – the beans were just as tasty, but the awesome smoky salsa was lacking the smoky flavor, and the vegetable mix in my enchiladas was a bunch of (obviously previously frozen) things cut into cubes – tasty, but not as good as the other place’s veg mix.

We ate at the Springdale location again the following day on the way back to the airport, and it was fantastic (again).  The tragic part of the entire weekend (other than the RAIN, SLEET, SNOW, AND HAIL I AM NOT KIDDING) was that I left my leftovers on the checkin counter, remembering them only after going through security.  And not even tasty mexican leftovers are worth going through security twice.  I consider myself lucky that they didn’t decide it was a biological attack and shut the entire airport down.

Verdict:  Tasty vegan-friendly food in NW Arkansas exists!  But go for the Springdale location and not the College Rd. location.

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