It was just before noon when I had the realization: I just ate an entire chicken.
This had not been my intention when I made a taco trek from my home in Brookside to the avenue, city and state of Kansas. I started out at El Pollo Rey, where I’d been a few times before—the smoky half chicken was so good I plucked most of it off the bones. Then I made my way over to a place that was new to me, El Pollo Guasave, expecting to take a few bites.
Well, that Guasave chicken was even more to my taste—layers of citrus, spice and smoke I’ve been obsessing about since—and so I ate it. All of it. Medio plus medio equals todo. Before noon.
That’s a little insight into how this issue came together. Our team has been eating tacos—hundreds of them—over the past six weeks to bring you a list of thirty-five essential picks in Kansas City. In particular, food critic Natalie Gallagher spent several days driving around the city eating tacos from a carefully researched list. She loved one so much she insisted I go eat it, too, and then demanded we give it a full two-page spread.
KC is famous for barbecue, of course, but we’re no less a taco town. The confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers has been connected by an ancient route to Mexico City since time immortal, and if you start driving south on I-35 now, you’ll end up on Mexico’s Federal Highway 57, the busiest in the country. You’ll get to DF, the largest city in North America, in just over a day.
Those ties have brought Kansas City an enviable Mexican food scene, epitomized by the dozens and dozens of excellent taquerias in KCK, which are now being wisely marketed as a tourism destination through the city’s new Taco Trail app. But there are amazing, authentic tacos tucked into pretty much every corner of the city if you know where to look.
We hope this issue will help point you to some of the best. Just be forewarned: You may well find yourself one full chicken deep before the clock even strikes noon.