If someone called you “little fat one,” you’d probably share a few choice words of your own. In Mexico, “gordita” is a term of endearment—and an apt moniker for the ubiquitous street food. This thick corn cake, similar to the Venezuelan arepa and the Salvadoran pupusa, is usually made with masa and seared on a comal. From there, the gordita is sliced open and stuffed with the same fillings you’d get in another type of taco.
El Torito Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria
For the holy grail of gorditas, look no further than the powerhouse taqueria inside Supermarket el Torito (1409 Central Ave., KCK). Five bucks will get you a blimp packed with a generous dollop of refried beans or a thick slice of queso blanco and the protein of your choice, plus lettuce, onions, tomatoes and sliced avocado. You can’t go wrong—El Torito’s in-house carniceria ensures an abundance of fresh options—but the al pastor, marinated in a fortifying mix of cumin, garlic and cloves and colored brick-red by guajillo chiles, will haunt your dreams.
The best thing about gorditas is that the dense, pliable masa does an excellent job of containing even the juiciest of fillings. At Gorditas Durango (3124 Strong Ave., KCK), that’s the chicharron en salsa verde: soft, fatty chunks of pork skin stewed in a lovely, medium-spiced green sauce. This tiny family-owned shop is open daily during breakfast and lunch for takeout only.
Frutopia (3737 Independence Ave., KCMO) specializes in antojitos (Mexican street food), so of course, their gordita slays. Order either a corn or flour gordita and watch the chef slap a fresh masa cake on the griddle for a quick blister while he grills your asada. Good luck resisting the temptation to add a mangoneada.