Story by Dave Eckert @eatsanddrinkswithdave
It’s been five months since Kansas City, Kansas launched its Taco Trail, a collection of more than 50 local taquerias featuring street tacos, Tex-Mex-style tacos, some of the best birria tacos I’ve ever had, and more! Debuting on October 1, 2020 in the middle of the Covid-19 global pandemic, no one could have predicted the Taco Trail’s amazing success! “I was floored. It was beyond anything we thought would happen with this. It just shows the power of a couple of things. First, that people love tacos! Second, that people are starving for new, original, unique experiences. We’ve got some great stories to tell here, and to tell them through these wonderful people with their amazing food is a perfect match,” Alan Carr, the Executive Director of Visit Kansas City, Kansas shared.
The response to KCK’s first mapped-out trail has been overwhelming. There have been more than 4,000 restaurant check-ins and Visit KCK has handed out about 250 prizes to trail participants, including some of whom have stopped at every single restaurant on the trail. Carr wouldn’t go as far as to take credit for the Taco Trail, but he admits he was kicking around the idea of telling the untold stories of KCK even before he joined the Visit KCK team. “We recognized this was something we needed to tap into to create trails that tell the stories of KCK,” Carr shared. He says Covid-19 delayed the launch, but also made it even more important to get it up and running and start spreading the news. “We knew these were small businesses that were hurting, and if we were able to give them some financial support, it was important for us to do that. Plus, almost all of them offer carry-out, so that’s an option for people who don’t feel comfortable dining in. They can still support these local businesses,” Carr said.
The KCK Taco Trail has truly been a godsend for participating restaurants. Lionel Lucero of the excellent taqueria El Menudazo, known for its Birria tacos, says the Taco Trail means a lot to him personally and professionally. “It brought new faces into the restaurant along with new cultures. A lot of Islamic people came in, many for our lamb tacos. We’re the only restaurant selling lamb tacos. So that was really great,” Lucero said.
I had the good fortune to visit three of KCK’s outstanding taquerias during a press event some months ago. Lucero hosted the group at El Menudazo, our first stop. The group also visited El Camino Real and El Torito Supermart. All feature different styles of tacos, and all have excellent representations of those styles and their heritage. “We only have three things on our menu: menudo, birria, and tacos, so my job is to master those three items, and I’m fortunate to say that I think I’ve done that,” Lucero shared.
Lucero says he was surprised at the impact The Taco Trail has had, but in a good way. “We’ve had people come from as far away as Lee’s Summit, Missouri and Emporia, Kansas. We didn’t expect that, but we love it. I give them my personal cell phone number, so they can call or text to make sure we have food since we sell out each of the four days of the week we’re open. I don’t want them driving two hours to find we don’t have any food,” Lucero stated.
You can visit kcktacotrail.com to sign up for the KCK Taco Trail and have until Oct. 31, 2021, to check-in at participating restaurants for the chance to win prizes, which include:
- Check into five restaurants to receive a KCK Taco Trail decal.
- Check into 15 restaurants to receive Spicin Foods Tradición salsa.
- Check into 30 restaurants to receive a KCK Taco Trail t-shirt.
- Check into all restaurants to receive a KCK Taco Trail Championship Flag and have your name included on the Taco Trail Wall of Fame.
For a full list of the 50+ restaurants on the KCK Taco Trail visit kcktacotrail.com, or follow Visit KCK on Facebook at facebook.com/VisitKansasCityKS and Instagram at @visitkansascityks
Finally, Carr points out that this is just the beginning. “Down the road, there will be a Taco Trail Hall of Fame, but we’re still promoting the heck out of the trail itself. We’ve had a lot more people sign up than who have actually visited, so we want to get those folks over here!” Carr exclaimed.
And, Carr says this is just the first trail. There will be others to tell the stories of KCK, including a second that is more heritage-based that will likely roll out this summer and fall. Stay tuned.