Little Conejo near-perfect experience

Vancouver taco shop a deliciously different restaurant

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Dining out review: Little Conejo

Hours: Brunch is presently being served on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Telephone: 360-718-2633

Where: 114 W. Sixth St., Vancouver. For more information, Little Conejo is on Facebook and Twitter.

Health score: Little Conejo has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled for a routine inspection in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.

Why: Little Conejo opened approximately three months ago in downtown Vancouver. This is the first restaurant for owners Mychal Dynes and Mark Wooten, who have both been in the industry for many years. The menu reflects a taco shop with several different taco options and a small offering of additional items. A fine selection of mezcal liquor is also part of the focus at Little Conejo.

What I tried: My dining companion and I tried the duritos from the snack options, the carnitas taco, the suadero (beef) taco, the pescado frito (tilapia fish) taco, the lamb barbacoa taco, the poblano rajas con crema taco, a side of rice and a side of beans. We finished off our taco meal with the piloncillo shortbread cookies served with a chocolate dipping sauce.

The duritos are basically crispy pork rinds. They are shaped like wagon wheels and served with guacamole, lime wedges and hot sauce. I tried them with all three add-ons and found them agreeable. My favorite was dipped in the guacamole.

Each soft taco is made with a house-made tortilla. I found the amount of filling just right for the small, taco-sized tortillas. The vegetarian taco was topped with cotija cheese, very mild in flavor, and appetizingly fresh. All the different meats were cooked to perfection, tasty and lean. The tacos showcased the meat with minimal add-ins (fresh pico de gallo and guacamole) that served to complement the distinct flavors. The fish taco contained a portion of tilapia that overshadowed the small tortilla. It had a golden-fried, extra-crispy coating.

The side of refried beans was served in a bowl and the rice on a plate. Both were delicious. The beans were exceptional with their close-to-soup consistency and pure bean flavor. They were a welcome departure from the typical ones served at many Mexican restaurants far and wide.

Little Conejo only offers one dessert choice, but it will blow your hair back if you like shortbread cookies. The cookies are cut into bars and served with a warm, rich, chocolate sauce for dipping. Each buttery cookie is firm but not crisp.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Crunchy tacos dorados are the other snack option. A carnitas, cabbage, and avocado torta is available. Tacos include lengua (beef tongue), and a choriqueso (sausage and cheese). Brunch options include house-made granola with yogurt and pear, huevos rancheros, and a chili relleno taco. On the sweet side, there are churros with chocolate dipping sauce or filled with quince jam.

Atmosphere: The restaurant has south-of-the-border appeal. The interior has an outdoor, patio-inspired appearance. Walls have a stucco finish and are painted in light colors. Pine-style wood gives the floor a bright appearance, and tables are paired with simple wood chairs with some painted in pale blue for accent. The open kitchen and low surrounding counter allow full view of food preparation. The chalk menu board is displayed below a mission-style bell. Large street-side windows with a transom above wrap around the corner space the restaurant occupies, and simple fabric panels hang between the large windows. The bar is opposite the bulk of the dining space and has a built-in effect with a roof facade above.

Other observations: The atmosphere is very casual and does well imparting a new vibe to the Clark County dining scene. I found the waitstaff to be very attentive, and the food arrived promptly. Little Conejo has a well-stocked mezcal liquor bar. In my opinion, this place has a near-perfect balance for what it offers and how it delivers it, and the absence of large-screen TVs keeps the focus on this fact.

Cost: Snacks are $5. Tortas cost $9. Tacos range from $3 to $4.50 each. Both the rice side and the bean side are $5 each. Dessert costs $5. Margaritas are $9 or $32 for a pitcher. Draft beer is $6 and bottled is $4.25. House red or white wine is $7. Brunch menu items range from $3 to $9.