Chefs at El Pueblito highlight authentic Mexican flavors in each and every dish, from guacamole made with Haas avocados to hand-rolled tamales. They also prepare salsa several times a day in order to have a fresh supply on hand for the daily food fight. In addition to fajitas, enchiladas, and other traditional favorites, the menu contains a number of seafood specialties including grilled fish tacos, chipotle shrimp, and ceviche marinated in fresh lime juice. Dishes are served in a casual dining room adorned with a hand painted mural of a rural, Mexican village.
A line of stalwart cowboys wearing metal sombreros guards the red-brick, mural-covered façade of Los Alamos Market y Cocina, hinting at the quirky mom-and-pop charm to be found inside. Every day, members of the Juarez family work the counters at the convenience store or labor over the stoves of the kitchen, producing made-from-scratch Mexican feasts of pork adobo, menudo, posole, and carne asada. Guests plop down on green vinyl booths near the open kitchen, but not before they’ve loaded up their plates at a buffet with chilies rellenos, marinated chicken, and stewed barbacoa. In the attached grocery and market, interesting products hang from the ceiling and shelves, including a line of novelty piñatas made to look like rival university mascots or local business competitors.
Melding Southwestern-tinged fare with the traditional Latin American flavors of her childhood, chef and co-owner Lorenza Guitierrez's award-winning eats have put smiles on the lips of Kansas City bellies since Poco's opened in 2006. The menu boasts inventive takes on Mexican classics. Plantain chips scoop up fresh guacamole ($7), while a starter of tamales ($8) comes stuffed with tantalizing goat cheese and vegetables, much to the chagrin of late-night Soylent Green–tamale peddlers. Entrees are served with soup or salad, in addition to selective appearances of rice, beans, or seasonal vegetables. Patrons with porcine-inclined palates can plunder the Yucatan Tacos de Puerco, a savory pile of orange-chipotle pork topped with salsa verde and swaddled in lettuce ($16), while Aquarians can plunge their taste buds into the tortilla-encrusted salmon ($16). Vegetarians need not feel left in a lurch—the chile relleno ($12.99) can be prepared sans boeuf, while the roasted red pepper, with organic quinoa herbs, grilled vegetables, and chipotle-tomato dressing, is naturally animal free ($15). Float the evening's delectable edibles south of your throat-border with a selection from the thoughtfully assembled wine list.
The kitchen crew at Hickok's Bar & Grill embraces the idea of the American melting pot, inviting red-chili chicken tacos, enchiladas, and goat-cheese-and-chorizo fondito to mingle with north-of-the-border favorites including 8-ounce burgers, BLTs, and steak-and-blue-cheese wraps. The bountiful mix of cultures pairs well with a list of domestic and imported beers served alongside housemade margaritas and sangria. Guests munch their meals amid rustically elegant décor, complete with a western-style bar, brick walls and diamond-studded barstools.
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.