When diners arrive at Frida's Contemporary Mexican Cuisine, they glide across sleek hardwood floors toward plush booths and tables surrounded by coral-hued walls and modern hanging lights. Amiable staff members whisk colorful dishes topped with regional spices and seafood toward their waiting taste buds. After filling their bellies with the authentically Mexican fare, guests can lounge in the bar area, harnessing enough low-alpha brain waves via nine big-screen high-definition TVs to properly digest a meal.
With its dark wood-paneled walls, antique road signs, and murals of Mexican pueblos, Kokopelli Mexican Cantina’s dining room resembles the fusion of a southern roadhouse and taqueria. It’s a fitting backdrop for a menu of homemade tamales, burritos, and enchiladas sprinkled with southwestern flourishes, like the pepper jack cheese layered on spinach enchiladas or the crab and white-wine sauce stuffed in the tucumcari's flour tortillas. Fajitas—Kokopelli Mexican Cantina’s specialty—feature strips of shrimp, steak, and chicken seasoned with a piquant blend of spices and scoops of homemade guacamole.
Kokopelli Mexican Cantina is a member of the Kansas City Originals, an alliance of independent eateries and chefs dedicated to nurturing, growing, and regularly basting the local culinary scene.
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.
True to their eatery's name, the family behind Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant focuses not only on curating a hearty menu of classic Mexican favorites and custom pizzas, but on creating a friendly atmosphere. Affable servers descend from the restaurant's velcro walls to stop at tables to deliver traditional or deep-fried burritos bundled with beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Chefs refer to old family recipes to build enchiladas, tostadas, and guacamole or hand the reigns to customers so they can choose toppings such as pineapple, jalapeños, or sausage to assemble signature pizzas.
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.
Guadalajara Cafe shies away from the Tex-Mex standards found at typical Mexican restaurants in favor of the authentic flavors and spices you?d expect to find simmering in a family cocina. Its chefs attended culinary training in Guadalajara, where they developed a special appreciation for the cuisine of Jalisco, a region that extends from central Mexico to the Pacific coast. They even spice up this Jalisciense style of cooking with exotic ingredients such as squash blossoms, nopal cactus, and shrimp wearing tiny safari hats to create dishes reminiscent of those first envisioned by the Aztecs.
The result of their dedication to tradition is a menu of central Mexican classics such as chilies rellenos drizzled in spicy tomatillo sauce, hand-rolled tamales, and tacos filled with charbroiled, citrus-marinated meats. In her blog Around the Block, Mary Bloch?the author of the Kansas City Star?s restaurant guide?lauds the eatery?s mole, calling it ?as good as it gets.? Diners can wash down these authentic morsels with a selection of Mexican beers or tequilas infused with jalape?o, cilantro, and tamarind.