Chow Town

Some of Kansas City’s best street tacos can be found at Bichelmeyer Meats

Pastor and Spicy Pollo tacos
Pastor and Spicy Pollo tacos Special to The Star

Want some authentic Mexican tacos? Try this German butcher shop.

It’s 11:30 on a Saturday morning and already the line is getting long. I can hear and smell the meat sizzling, as I peruse the hand-written menu: Tacos $3, Tamales $2 and Quesadillas $3/$5.

Just walking into this place makes me hungry, and I’m about ready to order everything.

Here’s our routine: Every few weeks, my wife Gay and I meet some friends at Bichelmeyer Meats, 704 Cheyenne Ave. in Kansas City, Kan., to eat street tacos.

Now you might think to yourself, “Wait, authentic street tacos at a German butcher shop? How does that happen?” I know, right?

It’s a fascinating story that I promise to tell you at a later date, but for now, just know that this place has legit tacos. It’s become our go-to taco place. And I’ll tell you why: It’s the flavor of the meat — perfectly seasoned — and the portion sizes. These tacos are loaded. No skimping here.

Bichelmeyer Meats is a family-owned, traditional butcher shop that was started in 1946 in Kansas City, Kan., and has been a staple in the area for years. Even after two setbacks — a flood in 1951 and a fire in 1995 — Bichelmeyer’s endures.

I first heard about this place back when I used to cook a lot of the barbecue circuit food (brisket, pork butt, ribs, and chicken). Many BBQ teams swore by this butcher shop.

The first time that I stepped through the doors, I have to admit that I was intimidated by the 60-foot meat counter. Yep, it’s that huge. And it’s packed with locally sourced rib eyes, briskets, pork shoulders, pork chops, chicken, tongues, hearts and their specialty, housemade sausages, brats and knockwursts. Walking into Bichelmeyer’s is like stepping back into time when your grandma used to go to the butcher shop. You really should check this place out.

But, let’s get back to the tacos, tamales and quesadillas. You see, on Saturdays, Bichelmeyer transforms part of its butcher shop into an authentic street taco vendor.

And here’s how the ritual works:

First, get your place in line. The length can vary depending on the time that you get there. My suggestion is the earlier the better. As you near the head of the line, you pass buckets of plastic condiment cups. You want to grab a few of those. I fill mine with limes, onions, cilantro, peppers and various sauces.

With condiment cups filled, look up at the menu. It’s taped on the wall, hand-written in magic marker. Today our taco choices are: Pastor (pork steak), Asada (beef steak), Buche (hogmaws/pig stomach), Barbacoa (steamed beef cheeks or brisket), Carnitas (pulled pork), Chuleta Ahumada (smoked pork chop), Lengua (tongue), Pollo (chicken — grilled or spicy) and Discada (a mix of pork, beef, ham, chorizo, bacon and franks).

Now I know from previous experiences that we can only eat two tacos each — remember I told you how much they stuff these things. So we make our choices carefully. Today we only order tacos and tamales. I just don’t have room for the quesadillas today, although it’s always an excellent choice.

The tacos are made to order, right in front of you, as you wait. They grab corn tortillas, dip them in oil and warm them up on the hot, domed plancha. After the tortillas are heated, mounds of seasoned meat are spooned in.

Today our choices were Pastor and (spicy) Pollo. We pay only $11 for three overflowing tacos and a tamale. We carefully balance all of this great-smelling food in our hands and shuffle away from the counter so someone else can have their turn at gastronomic enjoyment.

Fortunately, there are tables and chairs set out so you can comfortably enjoy your food. We sit down, arrange the condiment cups and the fun begins. We all garnish our tacos differently. A little cilantro here, lots of onions there, a mixture of creamy green hot sauce with a dab of the other green sauce … oh, and just in case you are wondering, no powdered cheese. That’s a different story.

Now this is my idea of a perfect Saturday brunch.

One warning about the tacos at Bichelmeyer Meats. OK, well, maybe two warnings. One is that you should get there early, or they might sell out. Normal hours are Saturday only from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., however, I’ve seen some of the menu items sell out by 1 or 2 p.m.

The second warning is that Bichelmeyer’s tacos can become very addictive. Sure, I can quit anytime I want. That’s what I keep telling myself. … But really, I can’t quit yet because I still have other friends that I want to take here. Don’t you love my rationale?

So there you have it. The next Saturday morning you find yourself wondering where to get a good meal, I would highly recommend you come on down to Bichelmeyer Meats and treat yourself to some tasty, overflowing tacos.

And, although I’m not the surgeon general, don’t forget that I warned you: Bichelmeyer’s tacos may become habit-forming.

Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.

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