Joco Diversions

Bonito Michoacan is a feast for the eyes — and the belly

It’s a serious challenge to go to Bonito Michoacan and buy just one thing.

The Mexican meat market, grocery store, bakery and cafe in Olathe is stocked with south-of-the-border specialties that are usually relegated to one small section in conventional American grocery stores.

Strolling the tidy aisles is a feast for the eyes. There are bright bottles of fizzy sodas flavored with mango, tamarind and guava. Bricks of brown sugar swaddled in corn husks. Creamy wheels of queso fresco that look too big for one man to lift, towering stacks of fresh-baked tortillas and bins overflowing with dried chiles.

Then there’s the bakery case. Everything inside appears oversized, from the Frisbee-like flattened cinnamon rolls coated with crunchy caramelized sugar to the fat cubes of snowy Tres Leches cake. Grab one item from the glass case and it’s hard not to reach back in for a cinnamon churro, a glossy sticky bun or a golden brown wedge of cheesecake.

“Everything’s made from scratch,” says marketing and promotions manager Lupe Sanchez. “And it’s fresh — no preservatives.”

Since owners Armando and Mayra Romero opened Olathe’s Bonito Michoacan last October, it has become a destination for Central and South American food in Johnson County. Some shoppers drive from DeSoto and Gardner to stock up, Sanchez says.

The cafe inside the market has become a popular lunch spot for local workers, particularly on Tuesdays and Fridays, when tacos cost $1 each.

The tacos come wrapped in warm, soft corn tortillas and stuffed with your choice of meat. The most popular filling is asada (grilled and marinated steak), followed closely by pastor. That’s marinated pork simmered with pineapple and onions. For more adventurous eaters, there’s tender lengua (braised beef tongue) and tripa (braised beef intestines). Bonito Michoacan is also a meat market, after all.

Other menu items include tortas ($3.99), burritos ($3.99) and hearty plate dinners ($6.49, or $4.99 on Thursdays) that come with your choice of meat plus rice, beans and tortillas. Wash it down with a Mexican Coke, tropical-flavored soda or iced horchata ($1.69), a creamy rice drink infused with cinnamon and vanilla.

The cafe’s dining room is simple and casual — just a few rows of clean booths — but it has a fun feel, thanks to cheerful music, big windows and a condiment bar stocked with colorful salsas, lime wedges and creamy avocado sauce. The servers are friendly and they work fast, which is nice if you need to be in and out in 10 minutes.

The Romeros, who also own Mexican markets in Kansas City, Kan. and Texas, plan to expand their business with a restaurant next door to Bonito Michoacan in Olathe. Sanchez says that K-macho’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina could open as early as this week. She says the restaurant will serve authentic Mexican food in a dining room decorated with rustic, handmade furniture and decor imported from Mexico.

Like Bonito Michoacan, K-macho will serve up flavors from Mexico — no passport required.

“When you walk in there,” Sanchez says, “you’re going to feel like you’re south of the border.”