Dec 282007

Poco’s closed to the public on March 16 but has since reopened. This review reflects my experience at the first incarnation.

Everyone wants to love this place, and it’s easy to see why. The owner works in the kitchen, the staff is very friendly. The space is cute, and the location is off-kilter enough to make it interesting. It’s hard to argue with all that.

I visited during lunch hour and found the place nearly devoid of customers, but I think Poco’s does a better breakfast trade anyway. It’s interesting to see such a combination of American and Latin cuisine, but not in the same dishes, just on the same menu. The menu features both American classics and gussied-up Mexican fare. For instance, at breakfast you can get huevos rancheros or pancakes with sausage. For lunch you can have fish tacos or a cheeseburger. Great, something for everyone, right? But as I sat there with my menu, I found myself wondering: Do I really want a reuben from a Mexican restaurant? Do I really want tacos at an American restaurant?

I want to know what they do best, and that’s my responsibility as a diner and a lackadaisical blogger. I figured, let’s go with the mole. Mole is pure Mexico, and not every Mexican place has it on the menu. Not unlike barbeque sauce or marinara, there are different types and techniques with everyone claiming to have to best version of this revered sauce. And it is notoriously difficult to make from scratch. Now I’ve had mole in various incarnations at many Mexican restaurants. I have even foolishly attempted to make mole in my own home–the kitchen looked like a crime scene when it was all over. Alas the mole at Poco’s had all the indications of being made from a commonly available paste, and I can’t really blame them. Tasty, but pedestrian. It came atop chunks of poached chicken breast-certainly not a traditional implementation. It was satisfying but underwhelming. With decent corn tortillas, refried beans and excellent rice, it was nonetheless worth 7.95.

Due to this, I think I might just try breakfast fare next time. It doesn’t seem like they are trying too hard with that and other people’s food looked tasty. Poco’s does offer a nice selection of beer to take the edge off a morning’s hard work. The place has windows all around the perimeter which invites great natural light and a vista of industrial KCK in all its glory. As a lunch spot, you can probably do better for Mexican on the Boulevard. But if you have a hankering for breakfast food, or just want a friendly change of pace, it’s a bit of allright.

Don’t want to take my word for it? here are some other reviews from

Poco's on the Boulevard on Urbanspoon

Cooking in KC

The Pitch

and Noodletown

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Nov 152007

I stopped by Tienda Casa Paloma yesterday on a whim. It really looks more like a market (which is what “tienda” implies) from the outside, but they I noticed some signs on the window advertising tacos, burritos, lunch specials, etc. In the end, I’m very glad I stopped in, for I found a place with a huge menu, lots of seating, and good food.

The vibes in this place are super friendly and positive. I received an immediate greeting from the two people behind the counter, as well as some advice about what to order. I opted for green chili, the special of the day. I had heard about green chili before, but had never noticed it on Mexican menus. It always struck me as a southwest, ameri-mex kind of thing. Maybe it is, but I decided to give it a go on the brisk autumn afternoon.

Green chili is basically a soup or stew, made with a base of tomatillos, the main ingredient in salsa verde which you see at many Mexican restaurants. I understand the dish is also infused with some roasted green chilis and lime juice. The protein kick is provided by shredded bits of roasted pork and chicken. This is not a spicy dish at all, and really is rather simple, hearty and fresh tasting. The whole thing was topped with fried tortilla chips and finely shredded cheese. I really need to start bringing a camera around with me, but maybe life is to short to start taking pictures of my lunch in order to spice up blog posts.

The green chili was very good, but not the best thing I’ve ever had. I would have preferred more meat, but basically I’m not a soup guy, so it would have been hard to overwhelm me with this dish. However, the meal was rounded out with a fantastic bottle of coke imported from Mexico, which tastes so much better than the crap we get here due to the use of sugar instead of corn syrup as sweetener. Anyone who has not experienced a real coke, go out and spend 1.75 at your local Mexican market for one. I was also happy to see a wide assortment of Jarritos sodas which were a favorite of mine when i lived in Chicago. Mmmm, tamarindo.

This place has counter service as I mentioned, which makes the whole experience very quick. My food came out to my table before I had taken off my coat and bag to sit down. Super fast. Unlike the Chartroose Caboose, the place was populated entirely by women, who i imagined were stay at home housewives in the midst of a typical day of working out, running errands, and conspicuous consumption. Entertainment was provided by two small children, who were dancing spontaneously to the jaunty mexican music being piped in, while being ignored by their parents.

As the name implies, Tienda Casa Paloma features a small assortment of Mexican foodstuffs for sale, including an enviable selection of dried chilis. The whole room looks like it is in flux, they were doing some work at the front corner while I was there. I think in due time they will get their organizational scheme figured out, because the atmosphere is just a bit weird. I ate my lunch right next to a shelf full of styrofoam plates and boxes of plastic forks.

In conclusion, I am very happy to have found this place-it’s right next to Mr. Gyro, so next time you are in the area, opt for some good Mexican chow instead of greasy processed lamb meat. Mind you, I enjoy greasy processed lamb meat as much as the next guy.

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Tienda Casa Paloma on Urbanspoon


Nov 132007

This is a fast food, railroad-themed, johnson county cheesesteak emporium. Thanks to commenter JH for bringing this local chain to my attention. Apparently chartreuse is a particularly obnoxious variety of the color green. I’m happy to report that the large model train featured at the Lenexa location opts for a more understated green than true chartreuse. One also hopes that the misspelling “chartroose” was an intentional gesture to facilitate visual rhyming with “caboose” in that gimmicky, commercial signage kind of way.

The Lenexa Caboose is located in a strip mall west of I-35, a truly uninspiring but typical placement for establishments in this part of the metro. The place was entirely filled with dudes–overgrown frat boys on lunch break, college students, random jobless yahoos. Not sure why, but cheesesteak doesn’t seem to be popular with the ladies.

The food at this place is fine, mostly because i can’t really think of another fast food place that specializes in cheesesteaks. As discussed previously, Grinders has a damn good one, but lots of places just phone it in, resulting in highly perplexing and uninspired varieties of this delicacy. The cheesesteak was good, but not awe-inspiring. Shockingly, it really needed more cheese. I’m thinking Cheez Whiz. I mean, it’s called a cheesesteak for chrissake, what’s the deal here? They have other things on the menu but I wasn;t going to order anything else if they consider this the specialty. The prices are cheap–I got outta there for 6 bucks all said.

The decor of course is pretty terrible–formica tables, too much light, hotel-grade artwork with a locomotive theme. They can’t decide whether this is a fast food joint or or a hangout. There is a small video game room and a train track that runs along the circumference of the wall. One can only imagine that the model train takes periodic trips around the confines but I did not witness this. They also serve beer which, along with these other things indicates to me that the Caboose wants to be a dinner destination for families. My advice, quit trying to hard and be a lunch spot.

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Chartroose Caboose on Urbanspoon

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Tarantino’s: 601 McGee – CLOSED

 Posted by at 6:32 pm
Jun 202007

This is what I’m talking about. I’ve passed Tarantino’s a time or two but never gave it much thought. Thanks to the suggestions by a couple readers of this blog I decided to check it out. Tarantino’s is situated on 6th and McGee, basically overlooking the highway to the north and the buildings down by the river. It’s a classically urban setting in which to enjoy a bit of lunch. Not too slick, not too gritty. It’s basically across McGee from Gland Slam Liquors, in case you want to pick up a pint of Popov vodka on your way back to work. It’s like a vestige of what KC looked like before 6th street was an actual city road and not a glorified highway feeder.

I arrived shortly after the lunch rush proper, and as a result the staff failed to bring a menu or wipe the table for 5 minutes or so. Uh oh, I thought, we have another John’s situation on our hands. But two waitresses noticed me eventually, and made up for the small wait with excessive quantities of friendliness. The primary waitress didn’t make me wait to place my order. For that, I’ll also forgive the short-shorts with “Team Pink” written across the butt.

The restaurant is quite small, maybe seats 40-50 people andthey seem to do a nice business. The patrons were mostly a middle-aged, white bunch of people, though i saw a couple teenagers as well. This is the kind of place where you will find well-heeled businessmen, secretaries, construction workers, and housewives all having lunch together. At least half the people in the place were regulars whom the waitresses called by name. The bearded gentleman next to me wearing overalls and carrying a 64oz plastic coffee mug was one of them. They brought him an iced tea without him needing to ask.

And jesus, the food came out in a hurry. The menu offered all sorts of Italian favorites–sandwiches, pizza, calzones, pasta, spiedini, sausages–and a number of daily specials as well. Except for pizza, I don’t think anything on the menu was over $7. They also serve several kinds of beer. At least one lady was smoking. No one cared. I opted for a meatball sub. After all, any self-respecting italian joint worth its salt will know how to dish out a decent meatball. And decent it was.For 6 bucks I got a nice sized (but not outrageous) sandwich, a bag of chips, and a pile of dill pickles. Sodas were only a dollar, so I got out of there without spending more than $10. And the meatballs had all the hallmarks of being homemade. That’s all I ask.

Moreover, my check was brought promptly, and I was out of there about 15 minutes after I walked in! This is incredible for table service. Depending on where you are, it shouldn’t take folks more than 10 minutes to walk there from Main Street, so a 1/2 lunch is a distinct possibility. Best of all, a friendly gent walked by everyone’s table to make sure the food was ok. I assume he is the owner. This is a nice touch, though I have definitely seen it done badly. Sometimes overly attentive service can seem disingenuous.

This place knows how to do it right: Good food, fast, friendly service, interesting clientele, good prices…I don’t know what else to say. Tarantino’s is going on the regular rotation.

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Tarantino's Downtown Pizza on Urbanspoon