903 North 7th Street Trafficway Kansas City, KS 66101
When I was sent to Kansas City on a business trip, I expected to sustain myself with BBQ and little else. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed this little mexican place a whole lot more than the BBQ places. Parked in a sadly-sparse ‘downtown’ Kansas City, Kansas, El Camino Real should be a ‘must visit’ if you’re in this next of the woods.
‘Fresh’ is something you can see, smell, and definitely taste – and El Camino Real leaves little doubt that you’re getting fresh ingredients. I snuck into the restaurant just before a couple large groups and got served just after noon in short order. Within a minute or two, a basket of tortilla chips, salsa, cilantro, limes, and hot sauce was on the table. I’m a bit of a tortilla chip freak and absolutely loved these. Light, not too salty, but sturdy enough to handle toppings. The menu has a decent amount of options, and browsing it gives you a few minutes to take in some authentic taco-making. From the fresh polenta paste mashed and flattened into a tortilla before your eyes, to the large, savory spit of pork shaved with each order, you’ll be easily convinced you’ve wandered far from the Taco Bells of the world.
Maybe the best part is that the menu won’t hit you in the wallet. Just $5.99 gets you a pair of fresh tacos, rice, and refried beans. Add a third taco (I did!) for another $1.50 more. Suffice to say from the context of the review thus far, I really enjoyed the meal. I ordered the Tacos al Pastor and the fish tacos to get my party started. The al Pastor (pork) was perfectly tender, with a subtle marinated kick, balanced by a healthy slice of pineapple. There’s no excuse not for getting this if you like pork. The fish tacos, which lacked the ‘wow’ of the pork, were still excellent. I’d prefer them a bit longer in the frying pan for consumption in taco form, but with the included toppings they were still quite tasty. The rice was what I’d expect with a mild, just-a-filler flavor, and the beans, though awfully watery, tasted fresh and homemade.
For the $8 I spent, I got a ton of chips, fresh toppings, three tacos, rice, and beans. Really hard to beat that. I noticed there was a wide swath of patrons there – businesspersons, locals, and even presumed actual Mexicans (hat, flag, and all!) . The atmosphere is laid back and the service is polite, but appears stretched with the lunch crowds. The next time I’m in town, I definitely want to try their chicken and beef, but you know I’ll be staying close to that pork taco.
Guru’s Score: 4.4 Chews
Subjective rating: Vamos a comer.
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