Chow Town

Good variety of restaurants line KC’s Southwest Boulevard

Paleteria Tropicana
Paleteria Tropicana

Unless you live and work out in the suburbs, I bet there isn’t a week that goes by that you don’t drive down Southwest Boulevard at some time.

The Boulevard runs east and west. It’s the ribbon that connects Missouri and Kansas on the north side of the train tracks that lead to Union Station. There is a dizzying array of industrial sites, lumberyards, hardware stores, and restaurants — all kinds of restaurants.

The variety seems to be greatest in a mile-long strip that starts with La Bodega on the east and ends with Danny Edwards Boulevard Barbecue to the west.

Here is just a sampling of the interesting mix of food just waiting for you, down on the Boulevard. Find your own favorites soon.

La Bodega — 703 Southwest Boulevard, 816-472-8272

I’m almost sure La Bodega was the first tapas restaurant in Kansas City. And although many places offer small plates of food nowadays, La Bodega has stuck with their concept and still serves classic Spanish tapas. Serrano ham? Grilled bread with fresh tomato and garlic? Garlic shrimp? Potato omelet? It’s all on the menu and there is Paella to boot.

La Fonda El Tacquito — 800 Southwest Boulevard, 816-471-1675

When the world was young, El Tacquito was up the hill at 17th and Summit streets in this tiny building. I still remember the first time I went there and tasted their Mexican style chili — delicious broth with pinto beans and chunks of pork, served with the tortillas that the family produced at a building in Kansas City, Kan. Today they still make the most wonderful chili plus a version of Mexican chicken soup plus the best eggs and chorizo.

Ricos Tacos Lupe — 802 Southwest Boulevard, 816-472-0738

Street food tacos are a different breed. Smaller, soft tortillas, easy to hold in your hand to eat, almost always with a slice of lime, onion and cilantro on the side along with the house salsas. Ricos reminds me of Mexico City. It is a tiny space but the tacos are $1.50 on most days and $1 on Tuesday. These tacos are great, the burrito is huge and the people are nice. What more could you want?

Paleteria Tropicana — 830 Southwest Boulevard, 816-221-0192

A few years back, a family started making home made ice cream, Michoacán style, and they opened this first Tropicana. In addition to ice cream there are popsicles and creamsicles, fruit smoothies, juices and fruit salad. Some savory items have been added. On a hot summer night, there is no better place to be.

Empanada Madness — 906 Southwest Boulevard, 816-503-6931

This recent entry into the food world of the Boulevard came last fall. The empanadas are not the pastry, meat filled hand pie of Argentina, but are made in the style of Venezuela. They are delicious. There are also arepas made of masa, tamales steamed in banana leaves instead of corn husks and other dishes from Columbia, Peru and Venezuela.

El Patron — 2905 Southwest Boulevard, 816-931-6400.

El Patron is a little different from the usual Kansas City Mexican restaurant. It is a little more upscale, but not fancy. It has a wider variety of food offerings, a deck that you can see from Interstate 35 above the boulevard and a nice long margarita happy hour. It feels good in El Patron.

Ponaks Mexican Kitchen — 2856 Southwest Boulevard, 816-753-0775.

Back in 1975 when it opened, Ponaks was just a kitchen, the same one they have today, with a very few tables. Slowly but surely they took over their block, adding a room every few years. Now, 270,000 gallons of Margaritas later, Ponaks is still the busiest Mexican restaurant in town.

Danny Edward’s Boulevard Barbecue — 2900 Southwest Boulevard, 816-283-0880

After 23 years of being open downtown on Grand Avenue, Danny Edwards had to move to make way for the Sprint Center. He made the transition to the Boulevard with his concrete pig in tow. The place is always crowded with devotees who come for the burnt ends, the rib tips or a slab of ribs among many other good smoked things. Danny is open 11 to 3 only.

Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one. First as a rock n roll caterer back stage to the stars, then with her own Kansas City based catering company, Cafe Lulu, food writing, novelist, private chef. Lou Jane has written and had published nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook. She recently moved back to Kansas City and eagerly awaits the next chapter of her food career.