Kansas City’s Hispanic heritage began in the early 20th century when Mexican immigrants came to Kansas to help build the railroads. Congress limited the number of European immigrants through the 1918 Foreign Exclusion Act after World War I. As a result, in 1910, 55 percent of all railroad track workers were Mexican. By the 1920s, the number was 95 percent. When Mexicans immigrated, they brought their recipes for Mexican dishes and taco traditions. Kansas City’s Mexican population represents many of Mexico’s cultural regions.
With over 60 locations on the taco trail, a restaurant must be a locally-owned family business and serve tacos. Feast on the best street tacos in town at these no-frills, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving authentic Mexican food with plenty of authentic ingredients.
When you sign up for the KCK Taco Trail Pass, you can earn various prizes depending on how many places you visit. Here are some of my favorite taco spots and their specialties listed in no particular order. Each location has something that makes it stand out from the rest, so don’t wait until Taco Tuesday to explore the Kansas City, Kansas, taco scene. Kansas City has been called the “True Taco Capital of the United States” over cities like Los Angeles and San Antonio, and after exploring their Taco Trail, I believe it.
Table of Contents
El Camino Real on the Kansas City Taco Trail
El Camino Real is a small, locally-owned taqueria with authentic Mexican street tacos. The Al Pastor Tacos are the must-try tacos here. Everything is unique about these tacos. First, they make the corn tortillas from scratch and cook them one by one on the flat top right in front of you. They’re definitely homemade tortillas!
Then, there’s the pork. Loaded on a rotisserie and cooked low and slow, with fresh pineapple on top, marinating the pork as it cooks. As diners order each taco, they take a house-made corn tortilla, shave the pork off the rotisserie and garnish it with raw onions and cilantro. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. The fun is watching them make the tortillas.
But eating these authentic tacos adds to the fun. I love the crispy caramelized pork pieces, which mix with the tiny pineapple bits that add perfect sweetness. You’ll see many a taco tradition at El Camino Real. This is one delicious taco! But you won’t be able to eat just one of these. You’ll want to order one of the taco plates.
Piper’s Pro Planning: If you plan to visit more than one taqueria in succession, remember to order only tacos rather than the entire taco plate. El Camino Real was my first stop, and it was lunchtime. I ordered the taco plate with beans and rice, forgetting we had several more visits on the Taco Trail that afternoon. Pace yourself!
Bonito Michoacan Taqueria
Part grocery store, part meat market, and deli, Bonito Michoacan Taqueria is a combination venue with about a dozen tables. They serve cafeteria-style, so when you reach the front of the line, tell the server behind the counter how many tacos you want. You specify what type of meat those will be and if you like onions or cilantro. They serve tacos on flour tortillas.
Even though they’re known for their lengua (tongue) and steak tacos, I wasn’t feeling adventurous and opted for the steak. They have several salsas that you add from the self-serve salsa bar, along with options like pickled red onions. You’ll find the two green salsas to be relatively mild, while the red is spicier.
Finally, after your tacos, walk across the parking lot and visit the Bonito Michoacan Panaderia (bakery). You’ll be glad you did. They feature a variety of bread, cakes, cookies, and pastries with authentic Mexican flavors. The Tres Leches cake was a treat that perfectly completed my taco lunch.
Piper’s Pro Planning: Ask around to discover each taqueria’s specialty. What are they known for? Most likely, that’s what you’ll want to order at each spot.
GG’s Barbacoa Café
GG’s Barbacoa Café is well known for its eponymous meat, barbacoa, and smoke brisket. I couldn’t decide between these two local favorites, so I tried one of each. Both were good tacos, and it was difficult to say which I liked best. I recommend ordering one of each, then deciding on your favorite. Then have at least one more of your favorite.
While these meats are great tacos, if you prefer your brisket or barbacoa by the pound or in a sandwich, you can have it that way too. They also have a robust breakfast menu if you’d like breakfast tacos.
Piper’s Pro Planning: I always love having an ice cream dessert after tacos or barbeque, and I didn’t need to go to another restaurant to complete my meal. GG’s offers a variety of shakes to top off your meal.
Las Palmas Restaurant
Las Palmas Restaurant is a sit-down dining experience featuring Central American and Mexican food with a large menu. While I chose an Al Pastor taco here, my dining companion raved about the fish at Las Palmas. They have extensive menu items with various fish and seafood.
Piper’s Pro Planning: I suggest ordering one of their pupusas once you’ve tried their tacos. Pupusas are a Central American dish found in several countries but are central to El Salvadoran cuisine. They start with thick corn tortillas and then stuff them with various fillings. I ordered one with refried beans and pork. I’d never had this before and was glad I tried it.
Tarahumaras is one of the best taco places in the Kansas City area for birria tacos. One of my dining companions raved about them, saying they were simply great food. I found a more unusual taco in the menu’s appetizer section—the potato tacos. I’ve not heard of these before, and they looked interesting. Potato tacos are deep-fried corn tacos with ground beef mixed with mashed potatoes, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.
Piper’s Pro Planning: Save room for dessert! You’ll want to try their Tres Leches cake, an excellent combination of white cake soaked in three types of milk for a moist cake that will cool down any heat you experienced in your main course.
Tacos El Guero—100% Michoacanos
This neighborhood taqueria seats about 30 people, and the cooktop and prep area are displayed. Their menu lists nine taco varieties, with a rumor that they also serve barbacoa tacos that they don’t list on the menu.
Tacos El Guero serves all their tacos with fresh raw onions, grilled onions, cilantro, and pinto beans inside the taco with the rest of the filling. Finally, they surround the filling with flour tortillas that they cook to a golden-brown outside. I sampled two tacos here, the birria de rez and the chorizo.
1. Carne Asada Tacos, a beef steak taco
2. Lengua Tacos, beef tongue
3. Chorizo Tacos, Mexican chorizo
4. Al Pastor Tacos, pork
5. Buche Tacos, stomach pork
6. Campechanos Tacos, mixed beef steak with chorizo
7. Tripa de Res Tacos, beef tripe
8. Birria de Rez Tacos, beef birria
9. Pollo Tacos, chicken
Piper’s Pro Planning: Michoacán is a state in western Mexico. The neighboring state of Jalisco, located in west-central Mexico, is home to birria, a classic meat stew. While they make beef birria with beef, other types of birria include those made with goat, lamb, or a combination of meats. A blend of chiles and spices gives it a red shade.
Paleterias Tropicana on the Kansas City Taco Trail
Paleterias Tropicana offers a standard-size fried taco rather than the more miniature street taco. The restaurant tops the tacos with cabbage slaw and avocado.
In addition to the fried taco, they’re known for the house-made ice cream and sorbets. So be sure to give their filled house-made churros a try. You can even use the ice cream once it’s softened as a dipper to make them even tastier.
Piper’s Pro Planning: I always enjoy frozen treats after any Mexican food, so no matter where you decide to have your tacos, stop by Tropicana afterward for some ice cream or sorbet.
El Toro Loco Mexican Bar & Grill
El Toro Loco Mexican Bar & Grill is a casual spot offering delicious Mexican food, authentic street tacos, and margaritas. The extensive menu features many types of tacos; however, one of the few places I went that offered seafood or fish tacos. The Cancun provides your choice of grilled shrimp, tilapia, or salmon on a divided ceramic platter specifically designed for tacos. They accompany the plate with black beans and rice. I had grilled shrimp, which made for a nice change.
Piper’s Pro Planning: You’ll find various Mexican beers and margaritas at El Toro Loco.
Taqueria Mexico #4
Taqueria Mexico #4 is one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Kansas City, Kansas, featuring an expansive menu. By now, you may be tired of tacos, but FOCUS, we are sampling tacos on the Kansas City Taco Trail. I had a new-to-me type of taco, the nopales or a cactus taco. The nopales came sliced in long strips resembling green beans, served on a flour tortilla. Their flavor is slightly sweet.
Even though I ate tacos at nine different taco shops, I didn’t have the same type twice. And there were still so many options to try.
Piper’s Pro Planning: If you want to sample several of the taquerias on the Kansas City, Kansas Taco Trail, I suggest you don’t try to do more than three in one day. But, if you only have one day, visit a different venue for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can find breakfast, dessert, and traditional meat tacos for lunch and dinner.
Finally, while Spicin’ Foods isn’t a taco shop, if you’re making tacos at home, this is where you get some of your salsas to take home and remember your trip along the Kansas City Taco Trail.
Piper’s Pro Planning: If you’re also exploring barbeque joints, they have those sauces to take home as a souvenir of your visit.
After eating your fill of tacos, you may look for brunch another day. Explore the Top 14 Places for Brunch in Kansas.
If you’re looking for more places to explore in Kansas, check out these articles:
Pin this to you favorite Taco Board.