Kansas City Mexican restaurants run the gamut from the traditional to the experimental. And while there are plenty of arguments on both sides for what makes the best Mexican restaurant in Kansas City, authenticity is another matter entirely. But what makes a restaurant “authentic,” exactly? Well, let’s use the taco as a barometer. A great authentic taco should be nearly indistinguishable from a taco you could pick up from any street vendor in Mexico City. The key lies in its simplicity—all you need is marinated meat, onions, and cilantro wrapped in a soft corn tortilla. Here are a few taquerias in Kansas City that nail the basics:El Camino Real | RiverviewWhat makes it authentic: The chefs at El Camino Real know that the tortilla is the foundation of a great taco, which is why they wrap all their tacos in a fresh, made-from-scratch corn tortilla. What to order: Try tacos with four different preparations of beef: asada (steak), lengua (tongue), picadillo (ground beef), and cabeza (head).Guadalajara Finest Mexican Cuisine | Overland ParkWhat makes it authentic: Guadalajara specializes in the local flavors of, you guessed it, Guadalajara. Aside from the wide range of traditional tacos, the margaritas draw inspiration from Guadalajara’s proximity to Mexico’s tequila-producing region. What to order: Pair the house-special tacos de pescado—fish topped with pico de gallo and mango—with the signature Guadalajara margarita.Bonito Michoacan | RiverviewWhat makes it authentic: A focus on delivering basic, traditional flavors in a wide range of dishes. You can order 11 different preparations of beef, chicken, lamb, and pork in taco, burrito, or torta form. What to order: The tacos al pastor, stuffed with marinated pork, pineapple, and onions in the perfect blend of sweet and savory.Rico Tacos Lupe | RockhillWhat makes it authentic: Rico Tacos Lupe’s street tacos are tacos in their most basic form—your choice of meat topped with onion and cilantro, wrapped in two corn tortillas. But they’re endlessly customizable thanks to a wide range of sauces and salsas. What to order: Stick with a basic taco, such as carne asada, and fine-tune your personal sauce and salsa combination before branching out.Carniceria El Torito 2 | RiverviewWhat makes it authentic: You can count on everything being fresh at Carniceria El Torito 2 because it’s actually a combination taqueria/grocery store. After you eat, pick up all of the separate ingredients from your meal at the adjacent store since, who knows, maybe the best tacos in Kansas City are homemade. What to order: A large, diverse menu makes this a good place to try less common options, such as shrimp or fish tacos.
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