Corn tortillas filled with meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese rest peacefully on a plate, unsuspecting of the fate that awaits them, when suddenly they find themselves in the hot embrace of a deep-fryer. What emerges is not merely a taco, but Lucia’s Famous Taco, a crunchy confection and, like many of Lucia’s dishes, a twist on a classic Mexican dish.
Since 1995, the chefs at Palomino’s Restaurant have furnished empty stomach space with a menu of Tex-Mex favorites frequently featuring specials and happy hours. Cheesy enchiladas and chiles rellenos conquer brawny appetites every day of the week, while Sundays add extra ammo to the conquest with an all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet that can spark all-you-can-throw food fights. While relaxing on an outdoor patio, guests guzzle frosty Mexican beers and icy margaritas from the bar, and dig into crispy tacos and homemade tamales.
The grills in El Maguey's kitchen are ablaze from noon until nightfall, sizzling up the meat, seafood, and vegetables of authentic Mexican dishes. Chefs assemble burritos, tacos, and enchiladas into 30 different combination plates and slice up a lengthy list of Mexican-style steaks. The kitchen also offers a full vegetarian menu, appropriate for eaters with no emotional attachment to bell peppers. Meanwhile, bartenders dole out pitchers of colorful margaritas, along with mugs of draft mexican beers.
Each day, the chefs at El Chupacabra Mexican Grill & Cantina fire up their grill to realize a wide variety of recipes that originated in Veracruz, Mexico, as well as a variety of Mexican-themed burgers. Monster nachos ($5.79) send teeth through a gauntlet of hot queso, tomatoes, jalapeños, green onions, and sour cream. Chili relleno treasure chests ($11.29) open to a bounty of monterey jack cheese covering a cache of spanish rice doubloons, a devalued currency preferred for its flavor. Sharpen fangs on a massive El Chupacabra burrito, packed tightly with beans, cheese, shredded and ground beef, and espinaca dip ($8.99), or opt for a burger, such as the Carnita, loaded with house-prepared pork and pepper jack cheese ($10.99). Combination platters ($7.99–$9.99) are built from a variety of modules inspired by Swedish design principles, with options including chicken tacos, bean tostadas, and house-wrapped tamales. Comforting classics such as fried ice cream ($4.99) and sopapillas ($2.49) guide meals to a sweet conclusion.
Ixtapa's kitchen creates authentic Mexican dishes with an emphasis on artfully prepared seafood and Yucatan-inspired flavors. Diners who order the pollo adobado entree, for example, can sink teeth into a chicken breast marinated in a sauce made with achiote seeds that, like most of North America's toffee supply, are native to the Yucatan peninsula. Fifteen chicken entrees—from the classic arroz con pollo to the spicy pollo Ixtapa—populate the menu alongside fiery shrimp dishes such as camarones a la diabla. The eatery's signature dish, camarones Ixtapa, presents a catch of succulent shrimp sautéed with mushrooms and onions in green tomatillo sauce. A full bar supplies adults with beer, top-grade tequilas, and reasons to talk about high school.
Tamale Wizard's kitchen blends six different salsas from scratch each day, evincing a food philosophy that is "really all about doing it the hard way," as owner and chef Bruce Swabb reported to the Kansas City Pitch. From a River Market storefront, the food-truck veteran crafts a focused menu of tacos wrapped in hand-pressed tortillas and plump tamales, each dolloped with sauces that include creamy avocado, mango banana, and chili peanut in addition to classic jalapeño varieties. Pork carnitas, chili-lime fish, and chicken en mole prepared according to Oaxacan and Yucatecan recipes fill the corn or flour tacos, and black beans, sweet potato, and cheesy green chili join the slate of fillings on the tamale menu.
The taps behind the bar dispense ales and lagers from Kansas City's own Boulevard Brewing Company, and artful bottles hold all-natural Soda Vie soft drinks in pineapple cilantro and strawberry mint. Exposed-brick walls and chalkboard menus create a flexible space for the staff's constant innovation, from whipping up ever-spicier taco fillings to building a sidewalk cart in time for summer weather and the taco-racing season.