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

Aug 082011
 

This building has housed more decent Mexican restaurants in the last five years than I can count. Actually, wait, I can count them. Tarahumara started there and later moved to 87th and Farley before closing a year or two ago. Later Coyoacan/Tamales to Go moved into 5816 Merriam Drive, giving way to Pollo Loco, then La Cabana del Pollo, and now, Carmen’s Cocina. I have been a somewhat muted fan of all of these establishments over the years, but I think Carmen’s may actually survive longer than a year because it demonstrates a little bit of business savvy and some very good, if slightly adulterated Mexican fare.

Exterior

First of all, this place is cheap. I went there last week and got three soft tacos, a Mexican Coke and a basket of chips and salsa for $5.95. The menu is significantly scaled back from previous incarnations: tacos, gorditas, enchiladas, burritos, and cheese fries, wait–cheese fries? Yes, this is an extremely curious addition to an otherwise authentic Mexican palette but don’t let it bother you, just ignore it.

Interior

Unlike other restaurants in this space, Carmen’s asks diners to order and pay at the counter. Table service never worked really well in this joint since the dining area is out of view of the kitchen. After you order, one of the nice folks will bring a basket of freshly fried corn tortilla chips and a generous bowl of salsa to the table. These are among the best chips and salsa you will experience in Kansas City. The chips, as I mentioned, are fried to order or shortly before, and are thicker and more lightly salted than those from a bag. The salsa is a thinner variety with good heat and a nice tomato and chile flavor. Truly excellent and free.

Chips

Carmen’s typically offers a special (of which the aforementioned 3 taco deal was one) and they are sometimes quite enticing. For instance while tamales are not typically on the menu, they do offer them periodically as specials. I’m kicking myself for not trying them when they were offered on a visit a couple months ago.

Tamales

Nontheless, the meats are very good. My only complaint is that they are sometimes a little dry as the carnitas were on my last visit. The offer a very tasty shredded beef–known as desebrada at other Mexican restaurants-which could use a little moisture but is very well flavored. The chicken “fajita” meat is absolutely delicious though somewhat unusual for tacos. It consists of white meat, marinated in lime, chiles and spices, grilled to juicy perfection. I usually prefer a more homestyle shredded or picked chicken but I can’t argue with the taste of Carmen’s pollo. This place is somewhat geared toward the American taste profile so you’ll find no lengua, cabeza or tripe on the menu. These tacos come with a layer of melted cheese on the bottom of the tortilla which is wholly unnecessary tastewise, but serves to keep the moisture from eating through the bottom of the taco. They also come with a little  tomato and sometimes lettuce in addition to onions and cilantro which is somewhat unusual.

Tacos

Don’t miss the gorditas. For a little more than the price of a tacos, you can get a lovely little meat pocket which makes for a nice accompaniment to a taco or two on days when you are a little more hungry.

Tacos and gordita

As previous tenants have been, this place appears to be a family-operated business. A white guy typically takes orders and works the register. A couple of Latina women and a teenage girl work the back of the house, while a really young kid wanders around and occasionally helps out by delivering baskets of chips to tables. These folks are very friendly and I assume that they are related to one another in some fashion or another. Having a meal at Carmen’s will make you happy that you are supporting these folks.

Carmen's Cocina on Urbanspoon

Mar 172011
 

Don’t be afraid. The scariest thing about Chelly’s is the interior decorating.

Interior

Interior

Isn’t this place dreadful inside? When reader JaySoy suggested it a year or two back, I had never really noticed it, nestled on the end of a haggard strip mall around the corner from Swagger at 85th and Wornall. The shopping center is anchored by the excellent neighborhood bar, Walsh’s Corner Cocktails which apparently has a cheeseburger I need to try.

A cheeseburger you don’t need to try is at Chelly’s, because Chelly’s is a Mexican restaurant. Mexican restaurants don’t need burgers. If anyone feels strongly to the contrary, feel free to tell me how great Chelly’s burgers are in the comments.

That being said, I did enjoy my meal in this curious little place much more than I anticipated. It is a familiar and popular genre of restaurant: slightly Americanized Mexican fare with a broad appeal but not the utterly gross kind. They serve up hearty plates of food along with mass-produced Mexican beers and perfectly good unnaturally green margaritas. Think Mi Ranchito, Dos Reales, Los Corrals and the like.

I was pleasantly surprised by a delicious pork tamale covered with a red chile sauce that they seem overly fond of. Tacos get the traditional corn tortilla, onion and cilantro treatment. I had carne asada and chicken and the meats, from what I remember, are just fine. These tacos aren’t going to knock your socks off but sometimes you just need a fix.

Tamale and tacos

The menu advertises an accompaniment called the “Mexican flag,” which I assume is the centrally located piles of green guacamole, sour cream, onions and tomatoes on each plate.

Combo

As you can see, Chelly’s serves whole pinto beans rather than the more common refried variety and though I prefer the latter when they are good these are perfectly tasty and a refreshing chance of pace.

Waldo is not a particularly good locale for Mexican food, with the supremely mediocre anglocized Cantina del Ray and Taco Factory up north. Paparico’s is the newest addition to Waldo’s Mexican family which has very favorable reviews around town, with a notable exception. So in this climate, Chelly’s succeeds, even though it may not be up to the highest standards.

Chelly's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Feb 222011
 

Taco Factory set up shop early this year in the old Sweet Guy spot in the heart of Waldo near 75th and Wornall. I was honestly prepared to never set foot in this place. Everything I had heard and read about Taco Factory made it sound like a middle of the road, cheapish whitey taco place that caters to boring people and drunks.

It turns out I was completely right, but I did enjoy my meal to a reasonable degree. The interior is brightly lit and brightly colored. Like a fast food joint, you order at a counter and pick up your order when your number appears on a monitor mounted high in the dining room.

Interior

I haven’t seen the number method deployed in this manner before, and I far prefer it to obnoxious shouting via loudspeaker or food runners shouting people’s names in the dining room.

Interior

The menu is reminiscent of popular fast food chains like Chipotle or Pancheros but I think the quality and flavor are a bit superior at Taco Factory. The shredded beef was succulent and delicious, despite a distinct over-reliance on salt. And the tempura battered fish was great; I would go back just for that.

Unfortunately, there are no corn tortillas to be had, only premade flour ones. They may be softened slightly on a grill, but are a little dense and chewy by the time you take the first bite. Each taco is attractively, if inauthentically adorned with shredded lettuce, red cabbage, feta cheese crumbles, some pale tomato and a generous handful of some tepid “Mexican shredded cheese mix” – probably Monterey Jack and Cheddar.

Tacos

Don’t bother with the rice and beans. The rice is over-seasoned and has the consistency of minute-rice. The beans are too salty and seem to come from a can.

The entree salads are large and attractively presented in metal bowls with multi-colored fried tortilla strips. The finely shredded chicken was likely cooked in-house and was well-seasoned and pleasant in texture. The salad dressing has the appearance of having come from a Sysco gallon jug, but you may prefer the judicious use of salsa instead. You have the choice of hot or mild salsa but I was unable to detect any heat whatsoever in either one.

Salad

Receipt

A highly publicized Happy Hour from 3-5pm advertises $1 Bud Lite draws and $2 margaritas. The signage is sponsored by none other than Pepe Lopez tequila which, along with the bottles of Hiram Walker triple sec I saw behind the counter probably creates a hell of a cheap-ass wallop in a margarita. By the way, what’s up with happy hours that end at 5pm? Happy Hour used to be a way to compete for after-work business, hasn’t this gotten a little out of hand?

Basically, Taco Factory is a fast food restaurant well-poised to succeed in Waldo, home to some of the city’s oldest and most mediocre restaurants. It is also aptly-named, since every ingredient in the place probably came out of a factory of some sort. It will appeal to college students, people who can’t get in to Waldo Pizza, and drunk people (it’s open very late at night). I’d love to tell you more about their hours and their menu choices, but Taco Factory doesn’t have a website.

Taco Factory 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

Ricos Tacos Lupe: 802 Southwest Blvd

 Posted by at 10:19 pm
Oct 172010
 

I’m not sure how long this place has been in operation near the corner of Summit and Southwest Boulevard, but I’m really glad it’s there.

Exterior

Too often the Boulevard feels like an overly long stretch of Mexican mediocrity; no place really delivers the goods when it comes to authenticity. El Huarache further east is a recent step in the right direction, culinarily speaking. But I like Ricos Tacos Lupe a whole hell of a lot, maybe better than any place in the vicinity.

They serve awesome, piping hot little tacos with a somewhat typical variety of meats: carne asada, al pastor, carnitas, chicken, buche, cabeza, tripe and chorizo. I haven’t had the tripe (but I will) and the pastor is somewhat lackluster but everything else is great. While chorizo–at least for me–is not a common choice of taco filling, do yourself a favor and order a couple of these if you decide to visit. It’s a salty, spicy, slightly crunchy treat.

Tacos

The tacos, like those at El Matador, are slightly smaller than average. Fortunately, they are cheaper than average, at $1.50 each. Tacos are $1 on Tuesdays as well.

And hey, they have huaraches, sopes and tortas too. Unlike El Huarache, Lupe’s seems to fry the masa base of their huaraches which lends them a delicate crunch. They are extraordinarily light and easy to cut with a fork. They will cost you $4.95 and are large enough to fill the average person.

Hurache and chorizo taco

The sopes are a steal at $2. Basically a sope is a small, round base of thick masa dough, spread with beans and topped with meat, lettuce, tomato, onion and cilantro. A sope is essentially the same thing as a huarache, differentiated only by its size and shape.

Sope

The salsas here are a revelation. The green salsa is pure tomatillo goodness, pulverized into a frothy concoction that is fresh-tasting and a bit spicy. The red salsa is more spicy but equally as good. It has a little smokiness which may indicate a chipotle but it was more subtle than I normally see. Regardless there are certainly some toasted chiles in the mix. The plain, red salsa served in a larger container with the chips strangely does nothing for me. It tastes like it is made with canned tomato sauce. Stick with the squeeze bottles of the other stuff.

Ricos Tacos Lupe is not a fancy joint. It’s not even a particularly nice joint inside. A pungent shade of bright orange paint adorns every wall. They need another coat since the first seems to have been hastily applied. A row of non-working deli cases line one side of the dining room and serve to hold cases of Jarritos and Coca-Cola. A grab bag of knick-knacks sit on top of the cases. The other wall has some interesting postcards of Mexican destinations and some cool portraits of old boxers. In general the interior is well-worn and pretty rough around the edges.

While many of the dishes are prepped in the kitchen at the rear of the restaurant, they are griddled and assembled on a mobile taco cart which sits inside the restaurant at the front. This allows the owner to also serve people outside on the sidewalk who can order through a window.

The cart

I’m not convinced of the street-worthiness of the cart, but it tickles me that this is how they prepare things here. The thing is powered by a propane tank sitting inside the front door.

Powering the cart

Surprisingly, Lupe’s is a table service joint. Not one, but two pregnant women take orders and run food while a guy mans the cart up front. These folks are really friendly and good at their jobs too. You will feel welcomes at Lupe’s.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that this place is cash-only.I’m an idiot, this place takes credit cards, although you typically have to pay at the register and might not get a check delivered to the table.

Ricos Tacos Lupe on Urbanspoon

Jun 032010
 

Four years in Kansas City, writing about restaurants for most of them, and I never knew this place existed until I saw it while driving around house-hunting a couple months ago. More recently it received a shout-out from no less than the New York Times in the article 36 Hours in Kansas City. Unlike most national coverage of our fair town, this article got most things right, so I knew that a trip to Ortega’s was in the cards.


View Larger Map

Tucked away in an area known as the Westside South between Southwest boulevard and I-35, Ortega’s is not really on the way to or from anywhere and was even overlooked by Google streetview. But it would make for a very worthy digression from the usual Mexican haunts on the Boulevard proper. It certainly has one of the more unusual dining areas in the city and pretty good food from what I can tell.

Ortega interior

Anything you read about Ortega’s (and there isn’t much) will mention breakfast and rightly so. The place is pretty well-known for its menudo, a classic, hangover-curing Mexican stew made with tripe. Apparently there are long lines on Sunday mornings as neighborhood families stumble out of church in search of the stuff. While menudo is certainly the appeal, so are the huevos rancheros and other egg dishes which attract the requisite number of hipsters and urban core whities.

I don’t do breakfast on this blog however, so I’m happy to report that Ortega’s serves up mighty fine lunch fare. At $6.75, the “Dinners” are a great deal as they include a pile of meat, a stack of tortillas, rice and beans. The carne asada platter inexplicably came with some lovely little vegetable matter too.

Carne Asada platter

Al pastor platter

I found the al pastor to be a tad dry with a consistency similar to burnt ends but without the moistening benefits of BBQ sauce. It still had good flavor, though I wish I had some onions and cilantro to top it off with. The carne asada was tender and had clearly been heavily marinated since it had a deep, dark brown color. Both meats were roughly chopped and presented on a platter without fanfare; it felt like eating at someone’s house. The corn tortillas are fantastic, but I have no idea if they are homemade or not. It really doesn’t matter, they are very fresh, supple and fragrant.

The chips and salsa situation is decent if not overwhelming. The pico de gallo appeared a little less than fresh but it still tasted great. The hot salsa carries a serious kick and was a perfect addition to tacos. The chips were probably homemade but seemed a little stale. I still ate them all.

Salsa and pico de gallo

Chips & Salsa

The retail operation at Ortega’s is situated at the front of the place and is restricted to a few coolers and shelves. Most of the building is taken up by a series of well-worn red vinyl booths where you sit to eat. A woman who I can only assume is the owner takes orders, expedites the food and rings up your tab at the front counter when you are finished. While not the most effusive of hosts, she is knowledgeable, efficient and helpful.

Drinks are a self-service affair; grab something out of the cooler up front to enjoy with your meal, otherwise you will be drinking water, and only if you ask for it.

This place is deserving of several more visits. I really want to try the posole, tamales and particularly the mole, which they were out of when I visited. I’ll warrant everything in this joint is made from scratch and I want to eat more of it. One important thing to know is that Ortega’s does not accept credit cards. Yes places like this still exist. If you are in a pinch she will take a personal check but I wouldn’t count on it.

I’d love to hear what others have to say about this place. I have the feeling that there is something very special going on here and I’m eager to work my way through the menu.

Ortega's Mexican Foods on Urbanspoon

Taco Via: 8615 W 95th St

 Posted by at 10:48 am
Apr 282010
 

I think this place kind of sucks, but then again, I didn’t grow up in Kansas City. When people talk about Taco Via, they talk about growing up in the 80s and the appeal of a more naive and happy time. Nostalgia is so completely powerful that I cannot argue with these people. Read this meditation on Taco Via and the heyday of fast food taco shops and see if you don’t agree. Sure, the phenomenon resulted in my least favorite chain restaurant of all time, Taco Bell, but we had some laughs along the way.

Taco Via

There are no fewer than four Taco Via groups on Facebook. The Wall posts are exclamation point-ridden nuggets of pure yearning for childhood and blind allegiance to a geographic region through its own quirky local business.

I would guess that this is a family operated spot. Two grumpy middle aged white women run the registers, a middle aged white guy and a teenage white boy put the food together and an old white lady with a limp buses tables. No attractive people work or eat here. Of course there is nothing Mexican about Taco Via. I suspect that among its enthusiasts, this is part of the charm.

Order at the counter. The menu is a little crazy, I can’t really process it every time I eat there because it is so large, varied and full of colorful pictures that compete for your attention. There is a taco burger, which you would have to pay me to eat. Of course burritos, tacos and the like abound. They also have an ongoing lunch special: a taco, sancho and nacho for 6.95, which includes a drink. What’s a sancho, you ask?

Taco Via

Yeah, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from Taco Bell’s “soft taco” except that it is about 3 times as large. It also tastes like nothing. The taco meat is mushy and finely ground, with only the subtlest of seasoning. Add some iceberg lettuce, underripe tomatoes and shredded yellow cheese and you are in business. Tacos get the same treatment but are much more palatable than the dreaded sancho.

Taco Via

Apply the taco sauce, available from a pump container on the counter, very liberally. The sauce helps foster a sensation somewhat similar to “flavor,” but not quite as pleasant.

The nachos are funny little things, not nachos as we have come to know them. At Taco Via a nacho is essentially a single tostada shell with melted cheese and a little taco sauce on it. If you like, they will add some chopped canned jalapeño peppers which make a world of difference, in a good way.

Taco Via

You get your drink with your food, not before. I can only assume that they are trying to prevent free refills by controlling the flow of beverages, but I really don’t know why. During the lunch rush you can wait a few minutes for your food to arrive so I would appreciate being able to sip a drink.

There are many more things on the menu, but I think it’s safe to say that they are all variations on a theme. Also, I really don’t feel like making multiple visits in order to sample all the wacky offerings. I’m getting old and my colorectal health is a concern.

There used to be many more Taco Via locations in the metro, but now there are only three: this Overland Park location, one in Lee’s Summit and one in Olathe. I heard from a reliable source that the owners of the chain required franchisees to pipe Christian music throughout their restaurants, close on Sundays and otherwise subscribe to a religious point of view in their business operations. A short-lived Gardner location is reputed to have used tray-liners with the 10 Commandments printed on them.

Take a look at the founders. Do you have a hard time believing that these people were hyper-religious nutjobs?

A few years back, several locations abruptly left the Taco Via family and changed names. This was the case at the old 75th and Metcalf location (where a KFC is now) and the still-operating Taco Uno in Shawnee. A 2006 article from the Shawnee Dispatch only cites “differences of opinion” as the reason for Taco Uno leaving the Via franchise, so I’d love to hear if this uber-Christian story is true. There is no such discernible activity at the 95th street Taco Via. In fact the location is not even listed on the Taco Via website.

Taco Via on Urbanspoon

Mar 112010
 

The State of Kansas seized the assets of Paleteria Chihuahua in March 2011 due to non-payment of taxes. Read more » (PDF)

This is a cool little place, one that I expect to become a tad more popular as the warmer weather rolls in.

La Chihuahua

Up at 77th and Quivira in Shawnee lies a fairly sizable strip mall that houses several Mexican-oriented businesses. If memory serves, there is Fronteras Restaurant, a meat market (carniceria), a place where you wire money to/from Mexico, and this little tucked away ice cream and lunch spot called La Chihuahua. It is also known as “Paleteria Chihuahua” due to its focus on frozen fruit bars known as paletas. A quick Web search indicates that there is another location in KCK which I have never visited.

But I wouldn’t be writing about La Chihuahua if it wasn’t also a genuine lunch spot. A big thanks to JH and Teague for mentioning it on the Suggestions post and pointing out the presence of darn good Mexican food in addition to frozen desserts.

La Chihuahua is a far cry from divey, semi-sanitary holes in the wall you may be familiar with among the better taco joints. The place is well-lit, colorful and extremely clean.

La Chihuahua

A large menu board behind the register features photos of many of their menu items, but the real lunch action appears in the menus on each table. There you will see offerings like tacos, burritos, menudo, tamales, flautas, soups, and even shrimp cocktail.

La Chihuahua

La Chihuahua

The torta (a Mexican sandwich in simplistic terms) is featured pretty prominently. You can get your choice of meats on a regular torta for $6.50 or opt for one of the specialties for $7.50. I couldn’t pass up El Cubano which promised four kinds of meat — carne asada, carnitas, pastor, and ham (jamon) topped with avocado, tomato and shredded lettuce. It came out looking mighty tasty.

La Chihuahua

But there was one ingredient I hadn’t anticipated: Mayonnaise.

NNooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooO!

La Chihuahua

After some hyperventilating and a few calming, psychological excercises, I scraped most of it off with one of those weird, puffed corn thingies on my plate and got on with my lunch.

Surprisingly, El Cubano doesn’t taste like a heart attack. I have never been a fan of tortas; I far prefer corn tortillas as a Mexican meat delivery system. But this bread was soft, with a decent crust and did not become overly mushy like other tortas I’ve had. This is a large sandwich and should satisfies the piggiest appetites among us without making you feel like dying.

Despite the torta-focus, I really like the tacos at La Chihuahua. You can get any number of meat preparations: carne asada (grilled steak), al pastor (marinated pork), barbacoa (slow-cooked beef), pollo (chicken), buche (apparently pig’s esophagus?), lengua (tongue), deshebrada (shredded beef) and carnitas (slow-cooked pork in lard). My favorite was the deshebrada which is a stringy, pot-roast-like style of beef–highly flavorful and moist. I found the asada somewhat gristly in parts but it was not tough and had a nice, salty flavor.

La Chihuahua

As you can see, the tacos are small and come served on steamed corn tortillas with a topping of finely chopped cabbage, scallions, white onion and cilantro. A portion of four will set you back $6. These are not life-changing tacos but quite delicious nonetheless. It is highly doubtful you can do any better in the area.

I did sample one of their aguas fresca–basically an uncarbonated fruit or otherwise flavored drink. Flavors include pineapple, lime, tamarind, mango, horchata (rice) and strawberry, which I sampled and enjoyed on one visit.

Customers of La Chihuahua, as you might expect are largely Mexican but not exclusively so. They don’t do a high volume business even at the height of the lunch hour. Order your food at the counter and they will bring it out to you at your table. Don’t expect the staff to know much English. There are a couple of women who understand it well and a couple who don’t. Nonetheless, it’s not rocket science to order your lunch; you are all adults here.

I am very glad that AWESOME DLC TIPSTERS turned me on to La Chihuahua. I look forward to trying more items on the menu and have utmost confidence that they will be well-prepared and tasty.

Paleteria Chihuahua on Urbanspoon

El Camino Real: 903 N 7th St (KCK)

 Posted by at 6:30 pm
Sep 132009
 

This is going to be short, because El Camino Real has received no small amount of praise and attention recently from the likes of Charles Ferruzza in the Pitch and the Gina Kauffman Walt Bodine show and from Meesha who, in my opinion offers the definitive analysis, complete with video. Read Meesha’s post for the substance, I’m just filling in some gaps.

I went there and sampled four kinds of tacos along with their rice and beans. The tacos were uniformly excellent. The meat benefits from being thrown back on the grill before serving where it develops glorious little crusty bits. The tortillas are small and corny yet soft and pliant. Each taco comes with two tortillas as they almost always do in proper Mexican spots. El Camino Real really piles on the meat too, more so than I thought they would for the $1.50 price tag.

Tacos

Everything here is a tad greasy, even the tortillas. But it’s a good kind of greasy.

It is all the essence of simplicity. Dining in you will receive bowls of chopped white onions, cilantro and limes for your tacos. The pico de gallo is fresh, dry and lively with spice. The thinner, chile-based sauce likewise carries some heat and is very good drizzled on a carne asada taco.

El Camino Real

The rice didn’t impress me–a little too tomatoey and sweet, reminiscent of boxed rice. The refried beans were somewhat smokey, a flavor I haven’t encountered in beans before. A chipotle pepper perhaps?

Each item costs 1.99 so save yourself the effort and just get more tacos.

Vegetarians rejoice! That hot little number on the left is a rajas taco. It’s a cheese filled poblano in a creamy sauce with onions, similar to a chile relleno. Though your tortilla will grace the meat-laden surface of the grill, there is otherwise no animal flesh in sight.

This is a no frills place with a basic dining room, one waitress and two cooks. They run the place pretty efficiently and everyone is quite friendly.

I know Kansas City, Kansas can seem like end of the earth if you live in Johnson County or South KC. Or even if you live a mile away. But this place really is worth the trip. Located near 7th Avenue Parkway and Minnesota, it’s not that far, only 5 minutes from downtown. Get off I-70 at Minnesota and circle the block since you can’t turn left on 7th. It’s right there.

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