The Kansas City metro area is well known for great barbeque. Indeed it is one of the four designated barbeque regions in the U.S. and home to the American Royal Barbeque contest.
But it’s more than barbeque on the Kansas side of the metro where more than 50 authentic Mexican taquerias, all owned and operated by immigrants to this diverse community, make a visit to Kansas City, Kansas, a yummy getaway. To help out visitors, there’s a Taco Trail that showcases each one – often little hidden away gems with limited signage that those new to the community may not easily find on their own.
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Why Tacos in Kansas City, Kansas
But it’s the authentic Mexican restaurants that seem to draw the biggest crowds. Many of the Mexican immigrants come to KCK from central Mexico and specifically from the state of Michoacán. Carnitas, basically braised pork, originated in Michoacán, but the KCK taquerias offer a selection of nearly 20 types of tacos.
Now, like most people living in North America, I say I eat Mexican food all of the time, There’s a good Mexican restaurant every couple of blocks. Then there’s Taco Bell. But I’ve learned that mostly what I’ve been enjoying is TexMex. Heavy on shredded cheese and spices, TexMex is good stuff, but it’s not considered authentic Mexican cuisine.
The street tacos in KCK are small flour tortillas that come loaded with freshly chopped onions and cilantro and a squirt of fresh lime juice. I enjoyed a prickly pear cactus taco, or nopales, at El Torito in KCK. I think it’s the first time I’ve eaten a cactus. I’m told it’s rich in Vitamin C and magnesium. I liked it, but later when strolling through one of the Mexican groceries on the taco trail, I hesitated before buying one. It looked like a lot of work scraping the thorns from it before cooking.
Barbecue and Tacos Together
Because this is Kansas City, one of the stops on the Taco Trail is Slap’s BBQ. One of Kansas City’s most popular barbeque joints, Slap’s has developed a Burnt End Taco. Burnt ends are a Kansas City thing – basically the chopped up burnt ends of a beef brisket that has been slow smoked for at least 10 hours. But on Taco Tuesday, the burnt ends are dry-rubbed, deep fried and served with sautéed peppers and onions. Again, it’s a KC thing.
In addition to the taquerias and food trucks, the KCK Taco Trail has a half dozen bakeries, grocery stores and carniceritas, or meat markets. Other than one spot that would be considered a chain restaurant, the businesses featured on the KCK Taco Trail are all mom-and-pop family businesses. English is not the prominent language here and you’ll find some places where English is not spoken at all. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to download the Google Translate app on your phone before you visit. A day spent in KCK has the feel of a foreign vacation.
The Colorful Murals of Kansas City, Kansas
While you’re exploring the KCK community, be alert to the eight colorful murals that highlight the diverse cultures of this city. Created by an artist name Jose Faus, the murals showcase the native Wyandot people of this land, as well as the Hmong, the historic Black community of Quindaro, and of course, the Hispanic community. Simply because of its location in the parking lot of McDonald’s, this mural at 826 Minnesota called “The Dance of Life” is the most photographed, most Instagrammed of the KCK Murals. Be sure to hashtag #visitkck.