Southwest Boulevard, Latino Culture, Ethnic food, La Bodega, La Fonda Del Taquito, Royal Liquors, Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen, El Patron, The Roasterie
Referred to by locals as the singular moniker, “The Boulevard”, Southwest Boulevard has become synonymous with cheap and delicious Latin American food, local art and culture. The Boulevard was born in 1887, when two landowners provided the land to join two roads on either side of the state line. Kansas City Avenue in Kansas and Rosedale Road or “Kansas City Boulevard” became one. The Missouri side continued to be macadamized until 1915, when it was finally paved.
This pocket of Latino influence grew from shantytowns bordering the stockyards, places where people used old shirts as windows. The area steadily grew, but during the floods of 1951 many of the Latino immigrants living in the area were driven from their homes.
The Boulevard suffered further devastation when the Phillips Petroleum tanks burst into flames in 1951, killing six men. The imposing black cloud could be seen for miles and was a difficult blaze to put out due to the floodwaters. The Boulevard rose again, however, due to the resilience of its community and became the thriving street it is today. It begins at Baltimore Street, as an offshoot of 19th Street and ends at Mission Road in Kansas, with restaurants and buildings and murals lining the road, passing right alongside the railroad.
La Bodega, the “Originale”
This quaint little restaurant sits just underneath the I-35 bridge at 703 S.W. Boulevard. La Bodega has one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city, and the Picasso-like influence is not lost. With mosaics, murals and gorgeous doors, you feel like you’re eating in a surrealistic painting. La Bodega specializes in tapas, following the centuries-old Spanish tradition of small plates shared among friends, and offers patio seating in the warmer months. Boasting one of the best happy hours in the city, gather up everyone you love and prepare for the best pitchers of Sangria I’ve ever had outside of Spain — complimented by plentiful tapas options.
La Fonda Del Taquito
La Fonda offers live music and dancing in its spacious dining room. A large metal sculpture of a mariachi watches from a ledge overhead as you choose from the menu. Although they’re known for their cheap tacos, the huevos rancheros is generously drenched in chile sauce that’s fairly mild. The quick and easy burrito spread is more than enough food for the money.
James Kasick went from being a distributor for Seagram’s to buying Gold Crown liquor in 1983. In 1985, he razed the building and built Royal Liquors. Open every single day of the year from 7 a.m. – 1:30 a.m., Royal Liquors is an interesting mix of clientele stocking almost every alcohol known to (wo)man. Late at night it can seem a bit rough, but don’t be afraid, it’s always interesting and hardly dangerous.
Ricos Tacos Lupe
Perhaps the best drunk food in the city, Ricos Tacos Lupe is open late on weekends. Served from a food cart as well as a restaurant, the street tacos are delicately marinated and stuffed with onions and cilantro. Taco Tuesdays is taken to a whole new level, at Lupe’s if you eat ten, you get a T-shirt and your picture on the wall of fame. Insider tip? Ask for the pineapple habanero salsa, only available by request. Also, it is BYOB.
The charming little storefront is the gateway to the best menudo in the city. This traditional cow stomach (tripe) soup may seem a bit much for some, but those in the know flock here on Sunday for the time-tested hangover cure. The little restaurant sports Tiffany stained glass fixtures and offers their panacea in two sizes. If menudo overwhelms, their shrimp ceviche doused in spicy Valentina sauce is a swift pick me up. Or for the even tamer, they are more than willing to put any one of their dishes into a breakfast burrito.
The smallest and oldest extension of this small Kansas City chain opens up into a hacienda style dining room that can accommodate larger parties. Their margaritas are more sweet rather than tart, and go down smooth with crunchy fried-to-perfection flautas. Every entree comes with a generous side of rice and beans and bowls of chips and salsa are never ending at every table. The Pollo a La Parilla con Camarones is a surf ’n turf combo with juicy grilled chicken, grilled shrimp and slices of fresh avocados. The Melcajete De la Mexico is chicken, shrimp, steak and cactus with avocado served in one of their signature volcanic rock footed bowls and is enough for at least two meals.
Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen
Forty years ago, John Ponak developed his award-winning margarita recipe, and Ponak’s has been winning awards for its location at 2856 S.W. Boulevard ever since. The cantina-style restaurant has some of the best carne desebrada in town. The juicy slow-marinated pulled steak comes in two burritos with rice and beans on the side. The fajitas come on an enormous sizzling plate that almost makes your ears ring. Ponak’s also has a covered outdoor patio and boasts sales of over six million tacos and 280,00 gallons of margaritas over the years, making it a neighborhood favorite.
A Boulevard mainstay. This 135-year old lumber company has been through its fair shares of disasters and calamities. Recently, the lumberyard was damaged heavily in the floods of 1998 and then suffered again when an arsonist struck in 2003. The fire caused five million dollars in damage, but Dan Fuhrman promptly rebuilt the property and returned to work. The lumberyard sits on 13 acres and features a yard, mill and showroom and offers hard-to-find lumber for the perfect match.
Poco’s Mexican Cuisine
Lorenza “Poco” Gutierrez learned how to cook as a child in her native Mexico and realized her dream as a restaurant owner in 2006, opening up Poco’s in the old Waid’s restaurant location. Poco’s creates dishes that are tough to find anywhere else—the plantain chips and guacamole, sopes de cochinita and several selections of tacos. Her rich sauces complete every dish and the chili marinated skirt steak leaves one wishing for another stomach to fill.
This classic two-story brick building at 2905 S.W. Blvd. houses a sleek, modern Mexican cocina. The space has seating downstairs in its chic loft-like dining room as well as upstairs in the cozily designed tables arranged in what looks like an updated turn of the century living space. The Coctel De Volverte A La Vida, or the Cocktail to Bring You Back to Life is a tomato-based broth with rich chunks of mariscos served with saltines. Their mole is the perfect balance of spice and chocolate, which is so hard to find. The bartenders are master margarita makers, using some of the best Mexican tequila.
Boulevard Brewing Company
Started in 1988 by John McDonald, the first half-barrel of Boulevard Pale Ale was delivered by McDonald himself to Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen down the road. The brewery has a daily and free 45-minute tour that takes you through the history of John McDonald’s $100 million dollar masterpiece that was started in an old building using used brewery parts from Bavaria. As the brewery grew, they took over other nearby buildings and added a bottling line, making mass production possible. On the second level hosts a bar where visitors are encouraged to try several kinds of beer. On the lower level, there’s another bar where you don’t have to go on the tour to reach. Always stocking Boulevard’s amazing seasonal brews and special edition 750ml bottles, it’s a hip place to hang out and enjoy conversation.
Founded in 1993 by Danny O’Neill, The Roasterie Air Roasted Coffee sprang from a passion that began in 1978, when O’Neill was in Costa Rica. The company has a policy of buying direct from green coffee bean growers around the world to ensure that the farmers receive a just payment. Once received, the beans are air roasted to ensure consistency in the coffee. The Roasterie offers tours Monday through Friday at 10:00am and 12:30pm. Saturdays the tours run at 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. There’s also a Factory coffee shop that’s open 7-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday so you can try the brew at your convenience underneath their signature real DC-3 airplane that seems to be ready for takeoff.