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.
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.
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 jalapeño, cilantro, and tamarind.
Rudy's menu spreads out traditional family recipes embodying the spicy flavors of Mexico, with 25 tequilas and margaritas ready to spring from the drink menu and cool down steaming mouths. Famous for their fish tacos, the chefs at Rudy's load small tortillas with steaming fish and vegetables to eat individually ($3.99) or as part of the Tijuana tacos plate ($9.99), where they're served with a side of rice and a choice of beans or nopales. In the Tamales Especial ($8.49), corn-based masa cradles tender pork bathed in a delicious sauce and smothered in cheese. Diners can chomp and crunch their way through the chimichangas de Tenampa ($9.99), whose deep-fried tortillas house a zesty concoction of sautéed chicken and fresh vegetables served with sour cream, guacamole, and rice and beans, or bite into a piping-hot pile of Margie's sizzling fajitas ($12.99), which combine a half pound of steak or chicken with peppers and onions, then shroud it in mystery, pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese, and warm flour tortillas. Each Friday night, diners can order one of the house margaritas and enjoy the live music of a mariachi band, which fills the restaurant's airwaves with traditional Mexican tunes.
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.
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.