Friday, October 24, 2014

Crispy Tacos in Kenosha + Racine

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
 
-  Taco options Up the Lake

It's been a while since we took a look at some food stops in the Kenosha/Racine area so I thought today was a good time to check out three popular crispy taco spots in town. We'll start in Racine and then take the short ride down the lake into Kenosha.
                                            
La Tapatia in Racine

Fellow local eats explorer Peter Engler aka Rene G on LTHforum had written this place up a worthy stop for a cheap lunch. Locals love their fr4eshly prepared crispy style of tacos. They're made in a semi ope air kitchen by quickly frying each side of the tortilla. Nice call. I enjoyed these this past summer while passing thru to Milwaukee. I went with two ground beef, one pork and a steak (extra). I ended up liking the ground beef the best but the pork wasn't bad by any means. Steak was sad.

Crispy Taco Plate ($4.59)

As long as we're talking crispy tacos and Racine let me add another worthy option into the mix. I did a little google search and found a place in town called Taqueria Nuevo Vallarta that was calling my name. I'd read their menu online and they offer fried tacos, one of my favorites.

Another popular spot for Mexican Dining in Racine

As I took a peak at the menu someone posted on Yelp I spied "Tacos Fritos" which in turn immediately shot it up my radar. You can't order tacos dorados to go unless you plan on eating them as soon as you step outside so I chose to dine in and was given a couple really well balanced made in-house tomato salsas (mild and hot) which were the old school American-Mexican type I adore. Six minutes later my tacos fritos were ready. They come four to a plate ($5.25) and while I'm sure you could ask for a different filling they only list ground beef as the option. I knew I wanted these when I read the description "Filled with Ground Beef and Deep Fried" Keyword being 'and'. While spots like La Tapatia prove you can make good crispy's that get filled after the tortilla is turned golden, I much prefer the spots frying the shells with the meat inside. As always these were wonderful, to me anyway. On top of these they have a section of the menu dedicated to "Crunch" and next time I plan on trying the Fried Flour Tortilla Taco Plate.

Tacos Fritos at Taqueria Nuevo Vallarta in Racine

Lastly, a spot for documentation sake. I peeked what people online had to say about Kenosha's taco scene and many were praising a place called Tacos El Rey. Tucked away in a residential part of town I've never seen this place until reading up on it so gave them a try a few trips back.

Popular American-Mexican in Kenosha

This place is straight out of the 1970's Midwest Mexican Restaurant protocol that's been discussed on here before. Inside it looks like a slightly fancier version of a Taco Bell with a flatscreen TV for sports viewing while eating. I saw they had something called a "Wrapped Taco" and that's what I tried. They take a hard shell corn and then wrap a flour tortilla spread with beans around it. Ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and lots of shredded cheese go on top. Nothing special but I'll admit to eating the entire thing. Stay tuned plenty more from this area is still to come.

Wrapped Taco

La Tapatia
1951 Mead St
Racine, WI 53403
(262) 633-7816

Taqueria Nuevo Vallarta
3700 Durand Ave
Racine, WI 53405
(262) 898-9600

Tacos El Rey
2000 Birch Rd
Kenosha, WI 53140
(262) 551-0970

Monday, October 20, 2014

Authentaco

- On the Road w/ The Chicago Taco Tour

When the news broke that the eastside location of La Pasadita was shuttering it made many people sad, just don't count me as one of them. What was often mentioned amongst peoples best tacos in town never deserved to be so as most people who loved the place were wasted when visiting. Long story short their char grilled steak which was then steamed was and continues to be (they still have two locations across the street) way overrated. Enter Authentaco. This is the taqueria that took over the old school hamburger building where drunken hipsters used to congregate after too many Malorts with a PBR backer. No longer an eye sore they kept the beautiful white paneling revealed when Pasadita's paint was stripped. They also have some wonderful artwork inside and a patio in back that will that transfer you from the busy intersection to a quaint backyard on a quiet suburban street. 

Newly Opened spot on Ashland just off Division

Authentaco is the second taqueria of the guy behind Picante on Division. I should point out that I know one of the guys who helped build the concept and create the recipes used for their taco fillings. The focus of the house is on two things the first being tortillas made fresh by hand. When walking by or pulling up you'll notice the friendly ladies in the window at work with them. The other focal point is the fillings that go inside the tortillas. They have a couple handfuls of guisados aka thick stewed meats on offer. Options like barbacoa, chicharrones, and plenty of vegetarian options await. One of the more popular fillings thus far has been the huitlacoche aka corn smut. This less than desirable sounding filling is actually thee thing to order from here. Earthy flavors molded with melted cheese on a thicker than norm housemade tortilla is one of the better bites I've had all year. I recommend trying it in quesadilla form. On top of all the regular filling options there's also a few market specials each week. Recently one featured was a taco alambre made with their top notch carne asada, bacon and sauteed peppers and onions which are then topped with cheese, you don't see these outside of the Fox River Valley Region too often. It's always nice to visit a taqueria thats doing a few things different than the norm. Welcome to the rotation.

Huitlacoche, Carne Asada, Barbacoa Tacos

Authentaco
1141 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(773) 360-7345

Authentaco on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2014

Eating BIG in Kansas City

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
 
- BBQ, Deep Fried Tacos, More Tacos and Local Favorites in KC

Took a little time to get this one together, thats to be expected when I take a weekend trip to KC. I've driven thru there once and did not stop so this was my first introduction to the city on the other side of Missouri. Obviously the main reason for this visit was BBQ but there were plenty of other stops we had our mouths set on. On top of the smoked meats we wanted to check out the fried taco scene as well as some longtime locals favorites and a hip spot or two. It was a hot July weekend and it might of actually slown us down some, nonetheless I think you'll be impressed. So without further ado.

I don't know about little woman but there's plenty of tatted ones
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Kansas City BBQ

Overall impressions going in were high and while they weren't quite met I still enjoyed our trip. I know they're known for their sauce here but I didn't have any that were as good as Toons, which is a KC style bar so maybe I just didn't find the spot I love. We ended up trying 'q from five spots but had wanted to do some more. Our first stop of the trip was Oklahoma Joe's (soon to be KC Joe's) but we stupidly decided to go elsewhere when we saw the line was long. It would turn out to be the shortest it would get on our three try's so we never made it there. We went inside to Danny Edwards' and sat down waiting for a waitress after they told us to do so and left about 15 minutes in when no one ever appeared. End Result? Austin is still the best BBQ town I've ever ate thru but everyone should decide for themselves by trying them all.
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Woodyard BBQ

This place seemed to be a popular spot with many locals and now tourists like us since their appearance on DDD. It was our first BBQ stop of the trip and one of the better ones in my book. While I didn't really enjoy the saucy burnt ends from anywhere I thought here they were at least enjoyable while the ribs were a little better. Best part of the meal was the side of cheesy corn which many KC BBQ spots sport on their menu. Woodyard's recipe was excellent with chunks of smoked bacon back mixed in.

Ribs, Burnt Ends, and Cheesy Corn
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Earl Quick's BBQ

Honestly the best thing about this place was the friendly service that came from the lady behind the counter. The ribs were bad, must of been cooked a day or two prior because the meat was dry and crusted up to the point where not even the sauce could hide it. The fried bologna sandwich on the other hand was a nice snack to munch on after the disappointment of the burnt ends which weren't awful but much like the previous stop were too wet for my liking.

Ribs + Fried Bologna Sandwich

Burnt Ends
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LC's BBQ

I've heard nothing but praise for this place and I'll be the first to preach to someone you cant judge a BBQ spot based off one visit but what a letdown. It's not like we were taking this tour on a Tuesday afternoon, most of these spots were doing big business which I assume is the case on most Saturday's. That said LC's wasn't ready. I loved the looks of the place and the fact you could see the smoke in the air while dining inside but it was as if they'd never been busy before. Folks ahead of us were complaining about how they'd been waiting going on a half hour after making their order and we would wind up doing the same.

Tending to the 'que

Remembering I wasn't a fan of burnt ends when served wetter than a whales anus I promptly asked the lady taking our order to make sure the sauce was on the side. I walked back to Jim and set the odds of that happening at slim to none and sure enough I was on like Vegas. How was the meat? Chewy. I'm pretty sure they rushed it out because they had no other choice but most of it went into the garbage. Now the four or five pieces that were edible were outstanding and maybe those were a peak into what real burnt ends are all about but at this point I was done with them. All this said, I wont hesitate to go back here because I've heard enough good things.

Burnt Ends
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BB's Lawnside BBQ

BB's seemed to be one of the more favorable rib options in town amongst those in the know and they also double as a bar and live music venue so we had them on the list. We were hoping to meet up with Geo, what up!, but he was lounging at the lake a couple hours away. BB's was busy this Saturday afternoon.

Live Music Inside

Pause on reading and take a 25 minute wait, because that's the time it took for the waitress working the patio to get to us for an order. Might as well be consistent with the rest of the spots I guess. In fairness I should point out that the Royal's are relevant for the first time in forever so they were bombarded with people stopping in to eat/drink before heading to the ballpark not too far away. The poor girl was all alone but she still could of brought out my beer when Jim's was delivered. Eventually the ribs were dropped off too. These were pretty damn good in my book. I really liked them. I believe we ordered the long end of the spares which are cooked over wood in their 60+ year old pit. End result was a pleasant one once the Royals fans headed to the game.

End Spares at BB's Lawnside
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McGonigle's Market

McGonigle's has been supplying the people of KC Metro with quality butchered meats for over a half a century and on the weekends they sell BBQ to go. It's made in a smoker that sits there in the parking lot tempting you with sweet smells as you both drive by or walk inside to shop for dinner.

Inside McGonigle's

Very cool spot, as you may or may not know I'm a fan of old school butchers and they've got a world class operation they're running here. After taking a peak at their homemade Italian sausage in the case inside and then seeing the links of them sitting in the smoker outside I decided that was what I needed to try. Props to me for the order. I think this might of been my favorite bite of the trip. Their Italian sausage is fattier than most I've come across but I assume that's because they smoke it. This was done so perfectly and when paired with their spicy pepper driven bbq sauce and some sliced red onions it was a pennant winner. Throw some giardineria on there next time around and you could have a World Series champion.

Smoked Italian Sausage Sandwich

Jim went with an order of spares and they were pretty on point from what I remember. I don't remember much because I was too busy trying to consume the sausage sandwich made with two split links on top of each other. I did manage to finish it but the bun was ditched about halfway in. I needed stomach space for what was still to come.

Rib Close-Up
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Fried Tacos

Ah yes, my guilty pleasure, when it comes to eating anyway. I've done too much research and browsing around on the WWW to know where to find areas with a high concentration of golden tacos. As searches turned up Kansas City was a place that kept on appearing. I always kept this in the back of my mind to remember for when the time to visit came. So you know I was ready.
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In-a-Tub Tacos

First and foremost is the local cult favorite known as In-a-Tub tacos. Just like I was excited to try Tasty Tacos on our ride there thru Des Moines I had similar wishes for going here. It's not that I found the signature tacos which are deep fried and served with a powdered nacho cheese on top all that appealing but I did want to decide for myself. Guess what? I liked them and I aint ashamed to say it. No these aren't anything close to authentic tacos dorados as they're a style all their own but as I remember saying to Jim "this is the White Castle of Tacos" and I just so happen to be a slider fan. Don't get me wrong, you eat more than three of these and you will not feel well, I stuck to two on each visit, yep we went Friday and Saturday, and seeing as how I'm a fan of the fried taco it shouldn't come as a surprise I liked these guys which come served in a tub with a couple sheets underneath to prevent grease from seeping.

Signature Tacos (1 beef + 1 beef/bean)
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Los Tules - Stopped into here for one of their signature fried tacos made with flour tortillas. It was ok. Seems to be a popular spot for people to go out and get a drink and eat before going somewhere else for more booze.
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Ponak's Mexican Kitchen - Similar stop and taco to up above expect theirs is made with shredded chuck. Nice place for a cold drink on a hot and humid day.
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Cancun Fiesta - I snuck off in between shots to nosh on this. I guess this place has a few locations in town including one in the middle of the Westport neighborhood which is where lots of drinking gets done. Makes sense, these grease balls can soak up lots of liquor.

Lobito's Steakburger

Located in Independence, MO this place came up as one of the more popular fried taco stops when looking around online. Housed in a former old school steakburger drive-in they kept the sign up and even have a house named steak burger on the menu but thats not why we were there. Their "GB's" are $1.25 each and are probably the most classic example of a real deal taco dorado like that of which you'd actually find in Mexico. These little guys were tasty.

GB's
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More Tacos

Bichelmeyer Meats

Repeat. I love my independent Midwest meat markets. However our reason for visiting this business running since 1946 wasnt for meat to throw in the cooler. On weekends they do tacos made to order and people online were praising the place. It's not a bad start when you get there and there's a quick moving line at least 20 deep. What started off with lots of hope upon seeing a fresh al pastor spit was quickly dismissed upon first bite.

Al Pastor Spit at Meat Market

The line was moving too quick for the spit to be allowed to darken the pieces so I don't know where the meat we were served came from but it wasn't any good. The al pastor was large fatty chunks while the steak was a salt bomb. I'm sure there's better to be had around town.

Al Pastor and Steak Tacos
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Taco Republic

From my recent travels in the last year or two I've come to find every metro area in America has a place like this. Chicago has a handful though our most well known one, Big Star, is best compared to this place. Mainly for the setup and style more than anything. Located across the street from Oklahoma Joe's they have a nice happy hour deal and some pretty good designer tacos and tons of outdoor seating space. The pork belly was the best panza taco I've had from the many modern taquerias I've visited. The steak one I tried was good but not great and even though there were other options to try they wouldn't be had this time time around.

Carne Asada, Poblano Strips, Corn, Cotija Cheese 

 Pork Belly, Salsa Verde, Cilantro, Onions, Chicharrones
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Locals Favorites

These are the spots I prefer when traveling and I knew KC had a quite a few. I love all aspects of dining but I tend to enjoy the locally loved spots the most when on the road because of the peak into what normal life is like in wherever it is I am. Also the fact America is loaded with many types of regional cuisines and Kansas City has more than just BBQ going on. There seems to be some good soul food selections as well as classic hamburger stops and a bunch of places that have been doing something classic the same way for forever and a few of them were in order.
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Niecie's Restaurant

This place has long been a stop to those of us who love Roadfood and also the locals of Kansas City. There were folks from all walks of life on our visit in which we took a seat at the counter. Service was as good if not better than you'll get at any Michelin rated restaurant and the food was really good too. I ate lots of grits while down on a trip in Asheville towards end of summer but none compared to Niecie's which were as creamy as a Wisconsin cow with more butter on top than a burger from Solly's Grille in Milwaukee. Biscuits and gravy were also on point and the bite of chicken and waffles I had tasted on par with the rest of the meal. Great stop.

Chicken and Waffles

Side of Grits

Biscuits and Gravy
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Stroud's Restaurant

I've seen many top fried chicken in America lists and you can almost always count on Stroud's being included in them. As time has gone by and I've traveled to more and more spots, I've gotten to eat at lots of the places people mention when the best fried bird in the States is discussed so this was an obvious stop. We rolled to the Oakwood Manor location which is the old school one that looks like a house with a bar outside down by the pond and plenty of space to wait which is what you'll be doing if you visit on the weekend. We decided to forego the line and place a to-go order at the bar and bring it out the concert venue sized parking lot to dine al trunko. We went with the meal deal thingy that included the famous pan fried chicken as well as homemade chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans and their almost as famous homemade cinnamon rolls.

Famous Pan-Fried Chicken

So how did this compare with the rest? Well it was damn good. Some of the better fried chicken I've had all year but I'll tell you what. It's the soup and sides I want right now. No bull the soup was maybe the best chicken noodle I can remember consuming and I say this because it was being enjoyed in 90+ degree heat. Slow cooked green beans are probably my favorite vegetable and theirs were so damn good I was tempted to go back in for an order to eat later. Mashed potatoes were made with real spuds and included a deep chicken gravy. All in all this was a great stop on the roadfood trail thats worthy of the attention its given. Oh and those warm rolls, phenomenal.

Cinnamon Rolls
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Image Image
Dixon's Famous Chili - I tried folks I did. But I was so full despite making Jim pull in that all I could muster was a taco which comes served in a generic hardshell with their chili inside and some cheese on top. It was ok. Read more about this spot HERE.
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Kitty's Cafe - "Since 1951 - Best Tenderloins in Town"

"Founded by Paul and Kitty Kawakami, a Japanese-American couple who were interned out west during World War II and summarily shipped against their will to Kansas City afterwards, Kitty’s has been in business since 1951 which, given its small size and location is pretty incredible. Located east of Martini Corner on 31st street in a somewhat run-down stretch of road full of abandoned storefronts Kitty’s still does a nice business serving cheap eats to working folks, neighborhood characters and destination diners." From KCLunchspots.com

as we enter

I think that review was from about five years ago and as you can see it's still the same five years later and that should be no surprise. They were doing steady business on our visit so I placed the order and read a few of the articles on the wall while I waited. It isn't owned by the same family anymore but most everything remains the same. Sure the menu prices have changed but even now they're still a bargain. Nothing is over $6. I decided to ball out and get the most expensive thing on it.

Tempura Tenderloin ($5.50)

As you can see, this aint your Indiana grandma's tenderloin. The original owners added their own cultures touches and served them with a tempura batter as well as hot sauce. Everything includes lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles too. The patties are small but they stack a few on top of each other and the meat is thinly pounded but you're still able to taste it due to the light yet extra crunchy breading. One of the better bites in a big weekend of chowing.

The insides
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Town Topic Hamburgers

Been wanting to come here for some time. It's been on all the shows and is often mentioned when Kansas City's best burger is discussed. I wish we got to dig further into the city's burger culture but there's always next time. In the meantime this was the spot we had to try due to locals fondness for it. The Midwest takes the smashed burger very serious. I'm pretty sure they're a regional thing we can claim as great ones are found from here to Detroit and all spots in between. My usual rule for these types is to go double since the patty is usually smaller than norm and I should of known to do so here. Other than this was a spectacular greasy burger that works great for soaking up the days libations. They're open 24/7 so as you can imagine they're a popular after hours stop. Big fan.

Cheeseburger
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Farmhouse - I'm not biased in my spots I visit. I like to check out the places taking the scene by storm too. Farmhouse is a hip farm to table-tip to tail type restaurant where they serve a pretty good aged hangar steak that came cooked below medium rare request which was fine, better than overdone. Nice bite.
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The historic Imperial Brewing Building...that's it for this trip! See ya next time.
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Woodyard BBQ
3001 Merriam Ln
Kansas City, KS 66106
(913) 362-8000

Quick's BBQ
1007 Merriam Ln
Kansas City, KS 66103
(913) 236-7228

L C's Bar-B-Q
5800 Blue Parkway
Kansas City, MO 64129
(816) 923-4484

BB's Lawnside BBQ
1205 E 85th St
Kansas City, MO 64131
(816) 822-7427

McGonigle's Market
1307 W 79 St
Kansas City, MO 64114
(816) 444-4720

In-a-Tub
8174 NW Prairie View Rd
Kansas City, MO 64151
(816) 436-5888

Los Tules
1656 Broadway St
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 421-9229

Ponak's Mexican Kitchen
2856 Southwest Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 753-0775

Cancun Fiesta Fresh
4019 Pennsylvania Ave
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 756-2120

Lobito's Steakburger and Mexican Food
3421 Blue Ridge Cutoff
Independence, MO 64055
(816) 921-0044

Bichelmeyer Meats
704 Cheyenne Ave
Kansas City, KS 66105
(913) 342-5945

Taco Republic
500 County Line Rd
Kansas City, KS 66103
(913) 262-8226

Niecie's Restaurant
6441 Troost Ave
Kansas City, MO 64131
(816) 444-6006

Strouds Restaurant
5410 NE Oakridge Rd
Kansas City, MO
(816) 454-9600

Dixon's Famous Chili
9105 E US Highway 40
Independence, MO 64055
(816) 861-7308

Kitty's Cafe
810 1/2 E 31st St
Kansas City, MO 64109
(816) 753-9711

Town Topic Hamburgers
2021 Broadway St
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 842-2298

The Farmhouse
300 Delaware St
Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 569-6032

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