Oct 232011
 

Across the road from the illustrious Hi-Boy burger joint in Independence lies “the other burger place:” Lobito’s Steakburgers, fellow possessor of a kickass vintage sign.

Sign

Seriously, how great is it that this business chose to keep the original sign rather than tearing it down or covering it up with a modern one? It may have been purely a matter of cost, but it was also a good business decision because I will always stop at a lunch spot with a good old fashioned sign.

Exterior

By the way, Lobito’s isn’t really a burger joint, despite the name. It’s a Mexican Restaurant, and a pretty good one at that. Certainly there are burgers on the menu, but my guess is that this is a move to placate diners attracted by the sign. I’ve heard the burgers are actually worth trying, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger.

This place was extensively decorated for Halloween when I visited, with fanciful little jack o’ lanterns and skeletons adorning nearly most of the wall space. There are also a number of wolf-themed drawings and photographs; “lobito” means “little wolf” in Spanish. I was also struck by how impeccably clean every surface was. Clearly some sort of re-purposed fast food joint, Lobito’s takes advantage of all the wipe clean surfaces by wiping them clean every chance they get. Seriously, it’s one of the more spotless places I’ve ever been to.

Interior

Service is quite friendly too. You will be greeted at the door, checked up on by the owner, and thanked as you leave. That will do as much to endear me to a place as good food. Speaking of food, the menu is a gigantic, confusing affair, complete with specials, combo platters, a la carte items, burgers, an extensive breakfast menu and a dessert selection that includes flan and sweet tamales, a relative rarity in these parts.

The Mexican fare tends toward Tex-Mex but offers more authentic variations such as Mexican style soft tacos alongside the ground beef and deep fried varieties. The “Lobito’s Plate” features your choice of meat with rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, some shredded lettuce and a tomato slice. The chicken is a marinated, pounded and grilled breast that tastes simply of lime and salt and is extremely juicy. The rice and beans are passable but nothing special.

Lobito's Plate w/ Chicken

Trio

What sets Lobito’s apart is the big selection of salsas available at a little salsa bar in the front of the restaurant. I appreciated having a number of them to try because the food took a longer to come out than one would expect. Normally this kind of gimmick doesn’t do much for me, but I really enjoyed the mild, tomatoey salsa that came with the basket of chips at the table, but also the smoky and spicy chipotle and the sublime salsa verde, accented liberally by black pepper. I also tried a really strange roasted red pepper salsa which I wouldn’t recommend on anything but the pico de gallo and avocado puree are both very good.

Salsas

Located close to the Sports Complex, Lobito’s is a perfectly good choice for food coming to or from a game. If Dixon’s and Hi-Boy are too busy or tired give it a try. You can get a beer and can even play pool while you enjoy some very good Mexican fare.

Lobito's Steakburger & Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Lunch on Independence Square

 Posted by at 6:20 pm
Aug 142011
 

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I served on a jury a few weeks back. Unlike more fortunate people who served downtown for awesome murder cases, I had to truck out to Independence every day to help settle a civil matter.  I don’t head out east very often and from what I hear that side of the metro excels at drive-in burger shacks like Mugs-Up and Teresa’s Drive-In. Normally that’s not a problem but this was during the heat wave and I drive a car with non-functioning air conditioning. So I stuck to Independence Square for the few meals I did eat there and came away largely unimpressed.

Cafe Verona is the obvious choice for someone wanting good food, so naturally I didn’t go there. The place didn’t exactly get ringing endorsements anyway. I had been to Ophelia’s several years ago and, while I don’t recall the specifics of the experience, I know that I didn’t care for the food, ambiance, or the service.

Exterior

Ruling out those two basically leaves Square Pizza. This place has very pleasant decor and a jaunty vibe, with black and white checked floors and yellow and red color scheme. The fellow manning the cash register was extremely friendly and helpful as I tried to figure out what to order.

Square Pizza

There are only a few kinds of pizza available as individual slices. On that day it was cheese, pepperoni, and “supreme.” These are fairly large pieces in the deep-dish style. The crust is extremely doughy and soft, reminiscent of Pizza Hut pan pizza. It didn’t taste bad, it was just an utter gutbomb. The salads are actually pretty good for a pizzeria. I mean, there was actually a cucumber of my salad – cucumber, in a pizza place!

Pizza & Salad

Square Pizza on Urbanspoon

Around the corner The Rheinland serves up a small menu of traditional German food and hearty sandwiches in a space with the decorative sensibility of someone who is at least 112 years old. Frilly curtains and white china don’t make me want to mow down on sausages, chug beer and revel in Aryan superiority like your average festive German. The Knackwurst was fine, if a bit chewy and salty. My plate was rounded out by some very nice tart potato salad with bacon and a pile of sauerkraut. The roll that came with the meal was among the worst tings i have ever put in my mouth. Dense, stale, chewy and gross.

Knackwurst

Rheinland on Urbanspoon

Wanting a simple sandwich one day, I popped into Dave’s Bakery and Deli, practically next door to Square Pizza. Dave’s is old school in the sense that it seems unfazed by culinary developments of the last three decades. It is a simple dining area, anchored by a long bakery counter and cash register. This is a place to get a cheap sandwich and a coffee from a styrofoam cup. A display case under the register offers an assortment of cigarettes and chewing gum available for purchase. This strikes me as a basic, blue collar joint with a huge menu but average food.

Ham Sandwich

I had a ham sandwich on wheat bread that was so fluffy and chewy, it might as well have been white bread. Only mayonnaise and yellow mustard were available as condiments, since dijon is clearly too fancy for a place like this. The Swiss cheese looked and tasted like white American cheese. Basically we are talking about very cheap ingredients here. But I didn’t hate it, and it was easy on the wallet.

I wanted to make it to Courthouse Exchange but couldn’t squeeze it in. Any other places on the Square I should have tried?

Daves Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Nov 302010
 

Way back in February, a reader named Candace emailed me about a “little hole-in-the-wall on 24 highway” with incredible tacos. Here we are ten months later and I find myself hurtling toward Independence on an unrelated weekend errand. Since I am virtually never in Independence I felt obligated to try one of the joints listed on my spreadsheet of restaurants to try. Do you have a suggestion? Submit it using this form; I may get around to it in the very distant future.

Anyhow, my visit to Lucia’s is proof that I do keep track of these suggested restaurants, and I will eventually get around to trying most of them.

Candace was right, Lucia’s is a hole in the wall, with an outward appearance reminiscent of a Bait & Tackle shop or a rough and tumble roadside tavern.

Lucia's exterior

Since half the square footage is taken up by kitchen and storage, the dining room is really very small. It is so small that I wouldn’t count on being able to get a table without waiting during peak hours. I popped in last week at about 1:30 on a Saturday and there was only one table available. The tables are situated fairly close to one another and most of them accommodate either two or four diners. I wouldn’t pop in to Lucia’s with your party of eight expecting royal treatment.

Interior

The tremendous display of photographic expertise above is about the only kind of dining room photo you can get at Lucia’s without being an asshole. There is no way to hide what you are eating, doing or talking about. So, to sum up, Lucia’s is small, get it?

Want to see the menu?

Menu

Menu

Here we have the usual dizzying assortment of hard shell tacos, sauced burritos and deep fried delicacies that are so prevalent in Kansas City. But the twist is that Lucia’s has a much more homestyle preparation. This makes for dishes that are a little more satisfying than Jose Peppers, Jalepenos and the like but not quite authentically sublime like El Camino Real for instance.

Marco & Steve's Judicial Spread

Mike & Jeff's Legal Lunch

Lucia’s has the curious habit of putting a grated, dry cheese–parmesan perhaps–on their tacos. I’ve seen this at other Tex-Mex spots and I’m really not a fan of the practice. It made an otherwise delightful fish taco a little too salty and pretty much trashed the mouthfeel.

The carnitas, only available on weekends, was nothing special. While tender and easy to chew, it lacked the crunchy exterior that is characteristic of the best carnitas. It appeared to have been braised or stewed without ever having been crisped in the oven.

The ground beef taco was…well, a good ground beef, hard shell taco. Even Don Chilitos can do these well so I don’t consider it much of an accomplishment. But I ate it and enjoyed it at Lucia’s.

Overall I think Lucia’s is a cool joint: family owned and operated, popular with locals, affordable and friendly. I have only been once, and I might go back to sample the menu more widely. Good Mexican food is so readily available in this town however, that it’s hard to justify returning when there are so many other deserving Independence spots to try.

Lucia's on Urbanspoon