Forbes Magazine called Kansas City, Kansas "America's Taco Capitol" and after eating tacos at over 50 locations and completing the Kansas City, KS Taco Trail, we tend to agree. Check out this post for our favorites.
I know it may sound amusing to talk about methodology when we are talking about eating tacos, but, not only do I love food, I love local business. To that end, I will not be posting about the very few taco joints that I did not enjoy. I know people can have off days and I may have not had an amazing showing and I don't want to do anything to harm local businesses. I am not a food critic but I am just trying to spread the word about my favorite tacos in KCK.
If a location offered pastor, that is what I ordered. I considered my preferences in terms of flavor, sauce offerings, the texture, flavor, and grill on the tortillas.
If something changes, I will update the blog. If you notice anything or any place that I missed, please feel free to reach out and let me know! Enjoy!
All links go to the Google Maps to make it easier for you to head there now! So what are you waiting for? Get on the Taco Trail!
Some things to keep in mind while eating tacos in KCK
KCK is a very diverse place with a lot of different styles and backgrounds. Many of the places on this list are small, family owned operations and can be small spaces and some of them are cash only. Many of the spots make me feel like I am visiting Mexico again so it may not be the roomy American-style spot you may be used to. Please keep that in mind while you patronize the establishments.
What if I want to listen to podcast about tacos before, during, and after eating tacos?
What a great idea! I was honored to have been a guest on the "Taco the Town" podcast while we ate tacos driving around KCK. It was a delightful experience! The whole podcast is a lot of fun so you should check it out.
Just tell me about tacos already!
Ok... ok... Here you go! buen provecho!
Top Tier (in alphabetical order)
The following taco places are the best of the best in my experience. I am literally unable to name a favorite place. I found the margins to be too slim and so I had to pick all of the best ones. I describe this tier as "If you can only go to one place, choose something on this list. I will join you!"
Burritos La Chiquita
Burritos La Chiquita has long been one of our families favorites. In fact it was both the very first Mexican food that we had when we were thinking about moving to Kansas City from Austin. This also happened to be the first stop for me on the taco trail. I remember talking with my friend who went with me about how I could eat through the whole trail slowly over two years. Little did I know that I would finish in 3 months and one day. But back to the tacos... My favorite tacos here is actually the quesadilla. Its not a a traditional quesadilla, but more like a mega taco stuffed full of goodness. My favorite sauce is mixing the green and red together for a perfect blend of flavor and spiciness. La Chiquita isn't open for dinner so make sure you check the hours before you go. This is a must visit in KCK! I will have to take a picture next time I go!
California Taco Shop
I come to California all the time when I want something with a Tex-Mex flair and lots of options. I have never had a taco because I always get there burritos smothered in cheese. They have one of the largest varieties of quality sauces around. I have certainly been missing out not getting tacos. The taco was good. Didn’t taste like pastor but was delightful. Flavored a bit more like beef it seemed with lots of salt and no pineapple. This has been a staple for me and will continue to be so. Now tacos are an option too!
Corporales Mexican Food
Corporales was a discovery on the taco trail for me and I am so happy to have found it. The pastor was excellent and so well flavored. Not much pineapple or sweet but the savory notes were amazing. The tortillas didn’t look cooked and I was disappointed at first but they were perfectly grilled and crispy. They had three sauces which had something for everyone. The mild was good if you like that sort of thing. The verde was tasty but my favorite was their hot red sauce. Super spicy and tons of roasted flavor. I loved it!
I mean. It’s Don Antonio’s. If you spend any time in KCK, then it’s not news that this is some high quality Mexican food. They can be really busy so plan for that if you are in a hurry. This pastor was so juicy and flavored to perfection. A touch of sweet and perfectly seasoned. The corn tortillas were nice and well grilled but were a tad soft for my liking. Their tortillas are a bit thicker than others and as such, they only need one and it works. The sauce selection is one of the (if not the) best in town - Don't get me started on that green creamy sauce they have! Oh and don’t forget the flour tortillas. These are, IMO, the best flour tortillas that I have ever had and every time I come I get two bags. And my family usually finishes them in two days. That’s right. We have a bag of tortillas a day kind of addiction to these things. You have been warned.
El Camino Real
The al pastor at El Camino Real was the perfect blend of sweet, savory, and spicy when the sauce is added. There was a lot of pineapple and the tortillas were freshly pressed and good although they could have used a bit more grilling for my liking but that is nit-picking. El Camino Real is a KCK staple for a reason. I go here often when I am downtown and don't see that stopping anytime soon.
El Camino Real II
No you aren't seeing double. This is El Camino Real II which means that KCK has double the flavor and double the fun. I think that the owners of these might be related but not exactly the same. I don't know all the details, but I do know that I enjoy this joint too! As you can tell by this photo, I took the family this time, although I might be able to crush this many tacos in one sitting... There's an idea! Tacos shown include pollo, carnitas, piccadillo and pastor. Some of the best flavor I have ever had on a chicken taco. The tacos are simple with great seasoning and a good grill on the tortillas. The read sauce is good as well. Great cook and flavor, but no pineapple to be found which I know some prefer.
What a fascinating place! El Menudazo only has beef and lamb tacos but they were good ones. They offer them with or without cheese which is pretty unique for Mexican street tacos and it really works for these. The menu is really simple: menudo, birria & tacos. Really solid tacos and I can't wait to go back for something other than tacos (ok, I will probably still have a taco ;). I liked the crispy fry on the tortilla and loved the cheese. The photo for this taco made it look not nearly as good as it tasted so I decided to not post it.
GG’s Barbacoa Cafe
GG's is a new family favorite. Everything here is so well done. If you want an amazingly tasty and unique take on traditional Mexican dishes full of flavor, go here. Their enchiladas are not your standard take but they are one of the best things I have ever eaten and my 7 year old still talks about them. The quesabirria tacos are absolutely amazing. Greasy cheesy and hot. The soup and sauce that came with it were exquisite. I have started coming here all the time and I’m ok with that. Oh and guess what, they have a brand new location so you can have the awesomeness in more places than
Las Palmas has both Mexican and Central American fare and they do great versions of it all. I have loved their pupusas but never had a taco before visiting on the taco trail. This was fantastic! The pastor didn’t really taste like how I normally think of pastor, but I didn’t care because it was a perfect flavor of meat. It was heavier and more on the chorizo side but tasty! The tortillas were perfect! The green sauce was unlike anything I have had before and was unbelievable in both flavor and texture. It congealed a bit because of the cream so you have to get past the look but it’s worth it.
Leslie's didn't have any pastor, but the barbacoa was perfect. It was succulent, juicy and full of flavor. This is one of the rare places that only has 1 tortilla but it didn’t need two. It was delightful and fresh and the green and red sauces were both spicy and amazing.
Los Altos de Jalisco
I went to with a buddy to Taqueria Jalisco on the last stop at 4 different places and we agreed that this was the best pastor of the day. The tortillas weren’t near perfect. They were perfect. The cook on them was amazing. The sauces were nice. I especially liked the green options they had. They meat was so well flavored it was unbelievable. It was savory just a touch of sweet. Serving with cucumbers and grilled onions was also really tasty and refreshing. My family went later and we couldn't get enough of the Birria. It was glorious.
Restaurante Tierra Caliente
Restaurante Tierra Caliente was the only place I have seen make the tortillas to order. It was so much fun to watch her form, then grill tortillas fresh for me! The tortillas were nice and grilled and only needed one. A tad on the dry side but the sauces helped a great deal with that. The sauces were pretty great. The green sauce had some good flavor and the red sauce was really hot and tasty. The meat was more finely chopped then other pastor I’m used to but flavored really well. Not much pineapple but it wasn’t missed. I’m glad to have found this one. I will be back soon. Oh and the tacos were only $1.50 each which is definitely on the cheaper side these days!
Another KCK staple in a grocery store, San Antonio's is well known for a reason. The sauce selection is fantastic here and their menu is extensive. The meat of this pastor taco was definitely the star of the show. Thick cuts with some great flavor. No pineapple to be found but I wasn’t missing it because of the meat and sauce. The tortillas were hot and fresh but too soft for my liking.
Tacos el Gordo
New kid on the block, Tacos el Gordo has it all! I have to admit, that I go here the most because it is so close to my house and office but it is one of my absolute favorites. The meat and tortillas are just right and they have two unique sauces that are to die for. The sauces are great on the tacos or the fresh cucumbers and radishes that they serve with a meal. Want something heavier? Don't forget about the quezabirria tacos that will rock your world Seriously, I'm here at least once a week so hope to see you there.
Tacos el Guero
Tacos el Guero had a really traditional menu and feel. Good horchata. Amazing orange sauce. I couldn't get enough of the flavor and spice. Amazing flavor and cook on the meat and the tortilla had a great texture and grill on it. I have been back to this place a number of times since finishing the Taco Trail and its a new family favorite. The beans that they put on the tacos are unique and add a great flavor and texture.
Taco el Sobrino
This is one of the closest top-tier taco joint to our house and I am so happy to have found Tacos el Sobrino. Without the Taco Trail, I probably would never have made time to stop here, but I am a regular now! The taco was solid! Great sauces and options, the flavor on the pastor was delightful.
Tacos el Tio
It’s silly, but I had never had a taco here before the trail. This has long been my favorite burrito place in town and so I always get that here. No surprise here, but the taco was amazing. Some of the best flavors I have ever had on pastor. Not much pineapple but there was just enough so that the flavors really popped. I loved the tortillas as well. They had great texture and flavor. I love that that have three different sauce options too. Tacos el Tio is cash only so make sure to stop by the ATM on the way.
Taqueria 7 Leguas
Taqueria 7 Leguas had really good flavor on the meat. It was super savory and just hint of pineapple. The sauces were really tasty but more watery than I expected. Great tortillas and the cook was near perfect on them. I have been back a few times since and the quality was always there.
I have driven by this place dozens of times and never had a reason to stop. That has changed! I was so impressed with the tacos. They were so fresh and tasty and the savory flavor exploded in my mouth. The tortillas were nicely grilled and some of the best non-crispy grilled corn tortillas I have had. Everything worked together. Pastor just had a touch of pineapple and it worked together well. The salsa was disappointing and didn’t add too much and it was a good thing the tacos didn’t need it. I can’t wait to come back and try some more of their menu which is a bit more Tex-Mex flair than you usually find in KCK.
Taqueria El Poblano & Mini Market
This was one of the most surprising tacos I have had on the taco trail because I just didn't expect this level of taco perfection come from the back of a mini-market. This was near pastor perfection. The amazing chips and salsa served first was enough to tell me this was going to be good but the the taco... the taco was smothered in a tasty verde sauce on top of a refreshing guacamole that made this a perfect experience. The meat was flavorful and rich. The tortillas were just a tad too soft for my taste but I was so excited about the meat and guacamole I didn’t care.
Taqueria El Torito
Supermarket el Torito is a well known supermarket staple for a reason. The tacos were excellent and full of flavor. The pineapple added a perfect amount of sweetness. They are usually really busy so you might have to prepare for a wait, but its well worth it. The tortillas were really well done and crispy to near perfection. The red sauce was tasty but not very spicy. Really smoky and good with chips. They also have multiple sauces on a cart that are all worth trying.
Taqueria Las Arenosas
The al pastor from Las Arenosas was on the greasier side in all the right ways. The flavor exploded in my mouth. Just a hint of pineapple and it was enough. The tortilla was perfectly crispy. Green sauce was good but a tad runny. One taco was definitely not enough here. I wanted 3 more and I shall very soon!
Tapatio Mexican Grill
Tapatio Mexican Grill is much more of a sit down restaurant than the normal KCK taco fair. I love their lunch specials here but have never come for just tacos. The taco was definitely worth it! Probably the most pineapple I have had in a pastor and it was delightfully sweet with the deep flavor of the meat. The tortillas could have used more grill and crisp for my liking but didn’t take away much from my enjoyment. I especially enjoyed the grilled onions. Most Mexican street tacos do fresh onion but these grilled onions elevated it.
Tarahumaras Mexican Restaurant #2
The day I went to Tarahumaras the street tacos were ok and they could have used some sauce. They were out of pastor when I showed up late in the afternoon so that was a bummer but no biggie. There was one magical addition, however that will bring me back for more... the birria taco was unlike anything I have ever had. It was a hard taco that wasn’t just a generic taco shell, it was fried fresh and crispy, cheesy, and flavored to perfection. It was the cost of two street tacos but totally worth it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Next time I will go closer to lunch for the street tacos too!
Honorable Mention Tier (in alphabetical order)
I enjoyed these tacos, but they just didn't make my favorite list. If someone is headed here, I would happily go, they just may not be my first choice to take someone to. Don't get me wrong, I still loved these tacos.
Bonito Michoacán -
Bonito Michoacán is a KCK staple. It is a buffet style taco joint where you stand in line inside a supermarket and tell them what meat and additions you want. It is pretty normal to have a restaurant inside a grocery store like this so don't be surprised. The tortillas weren't grilled so it wasn't my favorite way to have street tacos but they were not bad. The sauces were both excellent. i put them both on the taco and it was a great mix. Good flavor on the meat, but not as fresh as a made to order joint.
Daisy's was a pretty interesting one. The flavor of the pastor was excellent and had fresh pineapples instead of cooked on top which was a first for me. They also put fresh chopped cabbage on the top which added a unique crunch on the taco that I enjoyed. Ultimately, I think some of the flavor was taken away with the stuff on it but I still enjoyed it for sure. The tortillas were nicely grilled but a little soft for my preference.
The pastor from Frontera's was the richest/heaviest that I have had on the trail. No hint on pineapple but large chunks of fatty meat (not in a bad way). Not what I’m used to, but a really good taco for sure. The red sauce they serve is amazing the texture reminds me of a mole sauce. It had similar flavors and textures. The tortillas were really soft and a tad soggy but good.