Feb 282011
 

Exterior

Danny Edward’s BBQ began life as a little shack in heart of downtown Kansas City, known for cranking out delicious barbecue to lunch breakers, mostly on a “to-go” basis due to its small capacity. It was also known as “Lil Jake’s Eat it an’ Beat it,” a reference to Danny’s nickname as a kid. Danny’s father, Jake, was a well-regarded local purveyor of smoked meats in his own right for more than 40 years.

Danny Edward's BBQ, Downtown KC

I moved here in 2006 when Lil Jake’s/Danny Edward’s was still very much alive downtown but increasingly dwarfed by the scope of construction at the new Power & Light District which, if you recall, made that part of downtown virtually un-navigable. Apparently, the area didn’t have much to recommend it before the arrival of P&L, but by all accounts Lil Jake’s was not part of the problem. Nonetheless it was inevitably forced to yield under the duress of eminent domain, for the “public good” of a tax-subsidized entertainment district. In with Famous Dave’s, out with Danny Edward’s, a tenant of more than a quarter century.

It is the greatest regret of my culinary life not to have eaten at Danny Edward’s downtown location before it closed and moved to Southwest Boulevard. When I started this blog on January 1, 2007 I worked at the downtown library, a 10-minute walk from the little BBQ shack, but somehow I let the construction and the potential annoyance of a small, busy restaurant keep me away. Within a year it was gone, only later to reappear on the city’s west side.

To their great credit, Kansas City barbecue enthusiasts proved more than willing to make the short car-ride out to the Boulevard and the new Danny Edwards has succeeded mightily in newer, larger, more modern digs. While the whole relocation story makes me a little sad, I’m nonetheless thrilled that this place not only does brisk business, but serves great barbecue on top of it.

Indeed the food at Danny Edwards is practically as good as the esteemed Oklahoma Joe’s, without the attendant enthusiasm of people who deluge Twitter and Facebook with uninformed assertions about BBQ sandwiches with cheese on them (click at your own risk). And while I am not immune to the appeal of Joe’s excellent barbecue, I can’t recommend it in my capacity as a lunch blogger because the wait is simply too long during the noon hour.

I’m also much more excited about eating at a place with the Edwards pedigree. Danny’s father was slinging ‘cue on the right side of the state line five decades before Joe’s set up shop in a KCK gas station.

The hand-cut fries at Edwards are similar to those at Joe’s, right down to the salty and unnecessary seasoning powder applied at the end. You can request them without seasoning and I recommend doing just that. Better yet, forego the fries entirely in favor of some of the best onion rings in town.

Beef sandwich

The brisket is hard to ignore. Once you enjoy the thick-cut, tender chucks of smoky beef, you’ll be hard-pressed to order anything else. Sure, I prefer a thinner slice such as that at Gates or LC’s and the Edwards’ brisket has all the marks of having been steamed in foil to achieve extra softness. But any complaints I have are purely related to personal preference rather than any failing on the restaurant’s part. The flavor and texture are truly sublime.

Beef and Ham

Beef and Ham

Edwards does a nice job with their burnt ends too. Their predilection for buttery, grilled kaiser buns adds an element of decadent richness, but certainly doesn’t hurt anything. Edwards has excellent baked beans with understated sweetness and good bean flavor accentuated by many tender chunks of pork. Their sweet potato fries aren’t bad either.

Ol' Smoky (Burnt Ends)

Southern Style

I’ve eaten here a number of times but have yet to try the ribs, which look excellent. But I can vouch for the beef, pulled pork and ham. What I can say is that Danny Edwards has the best, friendliest service of any BBQ joint in town. This is a table service place and you will never want for a a refill, to-go box or check when you need it. These people are pros and they will get you out in a hurry if that’s what you want. While places like Gates pay lip service to friendliness with their calculated “How may I help you” training regimen, Danny Edwards is service in action. Pay a visit and see if you don’t agree.

Danny Edwards is used to regulars and it is possible to order before your seat is warm. Get your check at the table and pay at the counter, where, more often than not, the restaurant’s namesake and his wife are running the show. Don’t let the modern building fool you, this is old school Kansas City barbecue at its best.

Danny Edwards Boulevard Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ
2900 Southwest Blvd
Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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