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Kansas City - Central Avenue Taco Crawl


Zeemanb
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Chileheadmike and I have been talking about doing some kind of “taco crawl” up and down Central Avenue in KCK for at least the past year, and Saturday we headed out with his daughter for an impromptu dry run. With the lofts and loft-dweller friendly businesses hitting critical mass in the Crossroads, we have been hoping to crown Central (and Kansas) Avenue as “The New Southwest Boulevard”. This is by no means a comprehensive list of what the area has to offer, we probably passed by five times as many taquerias, carnicerias, paleterias and bodegas as we visited (all between 7th and 18th Street on Central and Kansas Avenues). I’m originally from the area…… born at Bethany Medical Center, grew up going to church at 15th and Central, got my first tattoo right across the street from it at East Coast Al’s, and it was amazing to see how the strip has changed over the years. When I last went to church down there in 1992 or so things had gotten pretty scary. Lots of drugs, violence, prostitution around the clock....your run of the mill HBO “America Undercover” documentary. At some point things have taken a huge turn for the better, at least at first glance. It’s much more lively and inviting, with lots of thriving new businesses and most importantly.......FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!

El Taconazo- 624 Kansas Avenue

This was where we decided to meet up. We were both familiar with Roberto’s and planned to meet there, but alas it is no more. We couldn’t tell if El Taconazo occupied the space or if Roberto’s used to be further down the street. Besides having the coolest name, it also turned out to be our favorite all-around catch of the day. They provide table service and have what may be the largest menu I’ve ever seen in a Mexican restaurant. Everything from tacos to tortas to whole fried Tilapia. Since we were planning to hit several places, we kept things simple. At least that was the plan. We got a selection of tacos; pastor, carne asada and the simply titled “cabeza” ($1.50 each if I recall correctly, all served on two small corn tortillas with cilantro and onion). I also opted for the lengua burrito. Five stars all around. I’ll let chile boy speak about the chips and salsa, but they were pretty damn great. The tacos were all top notch, but the lengua burrito was stupendous. Packed with slow cooked and seasoned, chopped beef tongue along with a small amount of lettuce, tomato and white cheese. For $3.95 I wasn’t expecting something that huge, so needless to say it put me off my game a bit for the next three stops. I will absolutely be back to investigate more of the menu choices. In my humble opinion, it is a contender for "Best of KC".

Paleteria Chihuahua- 1103 Kansas Avenue

Just a few blocks down from El Taconazo is this little ice cream and taco shop, in what looks to be a former Dairy Queen or Velvet Freeze. Counter service only, with a small selection of tacos and tortas, churros and ice cream. We got a few tacos with carnitas and one with deshebrada (which I was slightly disappointed to find out only meant “shredded beef”), as well as a chocolate filled churro. The tacos were very good, almost identical to what we got at El Taconazo, but with the addition of lime wedges, fewer onions, and very finely shredded cabbage. The churro really came out of left field. I’ve only ever had them plain, and we were all surprised to get the choice of chocolate or caramel filling. I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth in the world, but I’d go back for another dose of that cinnamon and sugary goodness.

Casa de Hernandez- 1817 Park Dr.

Okay, the one clunker of the day. Not terrible food, don’t get me wrong, just your standard American-Mexican fare. Lots of cheese on everything, nachos and quesadillas galore, no heat to the salsa, etc. I kind of suspected that’s what we’d be getting, I grew up eating there way back when it was Casa de Tacos. We sampled tamales, flautas, fideo and a Mexican style chili with lots of beans and pork. Everything was decent enough, but the menu just didn’t have much beyond the norm. Considering the great food choices available just east of the restaurant, I probably won’t be back unless it’s because I’m talking someone down from an On The Border binge. I’ll take the hit on this one, boyhood nostalgia won out over common sense.

Laura’s Restaurant- 1304 Central Avenue

Damn that wonderful and filling lengua burrito at El Taconazo....little did I know this would be the last stop I could muster. Laura’s is pretty popular, by that I mean I’ve heard friends mention it in passing. They have table service, are open 24X7 on the weekends, have a taco stand outside AND a bakery right next door. I believe the building was a Hardee’s at one point. They have a pretty large menu selection, but we took the taco route once again just to try and get a good baseline between our three main contenders. Beginning with some wonderful horchata to settle the belly we ordered deshebrada and lengua tacos. I also ordered a lengua gordita (corn) and FINALLY I got to go all Tony Bourdain with a “buche” taco (deep fried pig stomach). I don’t even know enough Spanish anymore to make myself look stupid, so somewhere along the line I ended up with an extra lengua burrito that I ate at home late last night. These were some good tacos. Mike’s daughter chose this as her clear winner, but I’m sticking with El Taconazo. My gordita was very good, with the thick corn tortilla sliced through the middle, deep fried and stuffed with a TON of chopped and fried (totally different than Taconazo) tongue and some refried beans. This was my first experience with buche, and I have to say that I had about half a second of hesitation (before I tore into it with vigor). I’m guessing they deep fry the whole stomach and then chop it up. It just looks very different; perfectly symmetrical layers of fat and meat, and I could see the texture freaking a lot of people (and by a lot of people I mean my girlfriend) out. But man, it is delicious. And not in that “I ate something strange and have to pretend it was good” kind of delicious, but truly wonderful. Very much like the fatty/crisp pieces of a smoked pork butt. A winner. We stopped by the bakery next door, and I picked up a selection of pastries to take home. I love Mexican pastry, it’s rarely overly sweet or gooey. The perfect companion to freshly roasted coffee. Although I love it, I’m totally ignorant when it comes to Mexican pastry. I don’t know what all the different treats were called, but they were beautiful as well as delicious……and all for under a dollar apiece.

Anyway, that’s it for the dry run. I know Mike has some good commentary on the way. We’ll get some recruits and hit it again here pretty soon I’m sure. I’ll have some time between now and then to ask some friends in the area about their favorite spots and specialties, because my one regret was that you can only eat SO MUCH great Mexican food in one afternoon without expiring. We had some great food and have a new favorite Mexican restaurant to add to our list, but we haven’t even skimmed the surface of what the “New Southwest Boulevard” has to offer.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

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My eG Food Blog- 2011

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El Taconazo- 624 Kansas Avenue

Like Jerry said, we had set up to meet at Roberto's, but it was no longer there. The obvious place was the purple and yellow building across the street from Art's Mexican Products. We got out of the car and I told Brianne that it was going to be good, the smell of spent beer filled the air. When we walked in I felt a little like the guys who walked into the black bar in "Animal House". It got quiet and everyone was looking at us, but the super frendly waitress smiled and showed us to our seats while all around us the locals watched us over their tables of empty budweisers. Chips were thick and crunchy, only one salsa was offered. A thick green salsa with lots of great green chile flavor and plenty of heat. Great salsa. I had tacos with carne asada, Brianne had al pasor. The small thick corn tortillas were steamy hot and delicious. Oh man.

Paleteria Chihuahua- 1103 Kansas Avenue

While waiting for our food I said something like, I don't think this will be as good. Well, I was wrong. I got carnitas tacos. Tortillas were the same as El Taconazo, which is to say effing great. Carnitas were shredded and fried crisp. Man they were good. The shredded cabbage was a little different, but I did like the crunchy veggies. Hot sauce was red and thin and while not quite as hot as El Tac it still had noticable heat. I'm not much for sweets at all but the chocolate filled churro ruled. Hot, crunchy cinnamon-y on the out side, soft and steamy on the inside and then all the chocolate oozing out.

Casa de Hernandez- 1817 Park Dr.

Not faulting Jerry for going here but, eh. This would go over well in JoCo. Our waitress was nice and took very good care of us but the food just wasn't there. Thin crispy chips, host salsa that wasn't. I had pork tamale and chicken flautas. The tamale sauce (served on the side) had a spagettios flavor going on, like it was canned tomato sauce or something that I didn't want to know about. The masa was decent, the pork was way overcooked and dry. Chicken flautas were ok, crisp corn tortillas filled with dry white chicken. Brianne said her fideo tasted like spagetti-o's too. Jerrys Mexican Pork Chile looked tasty.

Laura’s Restaurant- 1304 Central Avenue

Brianne had the shredded beef taco and proclaimed it best of the trip. I didn't get a taste but I'll have to believe her. I had a lengue (tongue) and an al pastor taco. Lengue was soft and had a beefy flavor with just a hint of ogan undertones. Kudos to Brianne for giving it a shot, although she didn't care for it. Al pastor was as good as anything we'd previous had. I don't know if I was on food burn out or what, but I did not care for the salsa. It had little heat and tasted somehow off. Not bad, just not right.

The bakery was great. You walk in, grab a pizza tin and a pair of tongs and go for it. One of the restaurants I used to work at had their own bakery. This was like stepping back in time. Brianne kept complaining about the heat and steam. I was in heaven. We got a couple of giant cookies and a muffin along with a package of corn tortillas that had just come off the press. Oh man those were good. They had bins full of the bread used for tortas, it may be worth heading down there just for that.

We got in the car and headed back to JoCo, full and happy.

Edited by chileheadmike (log)

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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OMFG - I've been to some, want to go to others, but cannot frickin' imagine doing more than one a day. You're a braver man than I ...

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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... and Saturday we headed out with his daughter for an impromptu dry run.
...and how dry exactly was this run? Nada cerveza? :hmmm::laugh:

Seriously though, I, like Judy, am in TOTAL AWE AND BOWING DOWN to the three of you!! Brave daughter you got there chileheadmike!! But then again, what do I expect from the chilehead lineage? Strong stock! :laugh:

Thanks for the great report!

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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re: Paleteria Chihuahua

I'm assuming you guys stopped at the churros? I don't blame you, they sound great!! It's just that my vulnerability for frozen treats would have had me indulging in their many icy offerings.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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re: Paleteria Chihuahua

I'm assuming you guys stopped at the churros?  I don't blame you, they sound great!!  It's just that my vulnerability for frozen treats would have had me indulging in their many icy offerings.

u.e.

Thanks for the kind words. She hasn't eaten since. :laugh: Lots of frozen stuff, but that was only the second stop on the tour.

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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Lots of frozen stuff, but that was only the second stop on the tour.

Yeah, if I were with you, I'd insist that Paleteria Chihuahua be our last stop - else I'd be libel to fill myself with ice cream and icy popscicles before I'd get a chance to consider all the other good things.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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...and how dry exactly was this run?  Nada cerveza?  :hmmm:    :laugh:

Seriously though, I, like Judy, am in TOTAL AWE AND BOWING DOWN to the three of you!!  Brave daughter you got there chileheadmike!!  But then again, what do I expect from the chilehead lineage?  Strong stock!  :laugh:

Thanks for the great report!

We talked about having some beers, but we knew it would just take up room where tacos were supposed to go! I don't think I was hungry again until lunchtime on Sunday, but still, I know we can pack in more places next time......I just know it.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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We talked about having some beers, but we knew it would just take up room where tacos were supposed to go!  I don't think I was hungry again until lunchtime on Sunday, but still, I know we can pack in more places next time......I just know it.

Yeah if you don't lead with the giant burritos.

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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Sounds like something I need to investigate the next time I am up. And moosnsqrl showed me how to get to KCK from the other side.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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...I know we can pack in more places next time......I just know it.

I would really feel better about all of this if you had emergency medical crews standing by...

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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And moosnsqrl showed me how to get to KCK from the other side.

Okay, I'm drawing a blank trying to come up with some good John Edwards-related one liners here. Anyone else? :biggrin:

:shock::laugh::rolleyes::cool:

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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And moosnsqrl showed me how to get to KCK from the other side.

Okay, I'm drawing a blank trying to come up with some good John Edwards-related one liners here. Anyone else? :biggrin:

And now I am drawing a blank. John Edwards? The politician? I have to admit to a certain level of selective amnesia with regards to the election but I'm afraid the reference is lost on me (as are an increasing number of things, but that's for another forum :huh: )

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Dave took us to a place called Taqueria Las Arenosas (1203 Kansas Ave), it was great and so good that I just went home and took a nap. :biggrin:

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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I think it may just be John Edward, not Edwards. He's the guy who does that fake psychic (as if there's another kind....) show where he talks to your dead relatives. Judy, you really missed out on a fine joke there. I feel bad for you. I'll go for the "Carol Anne! Go towards the menudo Carol Anne!" next time someone talks about getting to Taconazo from "the other side".

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

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My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Judy, you really missed out on a fine joke there.  I feel bad for you.  I'll go for the "Carol Anne!  Go towards the menudo Carol Anne!" next time someone talks about getting to Taconazo from "the other side".

The story of my life, I'm afraid. S[he] who laughs last, didn't get the joke. :rolleyes:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Judy, you really missed out on a fine joke there.  I feel bad for you.  I'll go for the "Carol Anne!  Go towards the menudo Carol Anne!" next time someone talks about getting to Taconazo from "the other side".

The story of my life, I'm afraid. S[he] who laughs last, didn't get the joke. :rolleyes:

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

... oh, wait... does this make me the last laugher? :huh:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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  • 8 months later...

OK, Resurrecting this thread.

Zeemanb and I ditched work this afternoon. It was a nice sunny Friday and we couldn't think of anything better to do than play hooky from work and kill our stomachs. He starts to IM me about leaving early and heading to Don Chilito's Fine Mexican Cuisine. I think he's kidding and say, "I will if you will". :raz:

I didn't think they could really be as bad as I remember, they've been in business since I was a kid, they must be doing something right, right?

We walk in and notice the place is clean with new paint even, but there's an odor. Not a Mexican food odor though. I'm thinking, "Get a couple of tacos and get out". Z says, "I'm getting the Juarez Platter, and if you don't get a platter you're a wuss." I get the Combo Platter, a taco, tostada, cheese enchilada, chile relleno, rice and beans. Plus you get free sopapillas and all the chips and salsa you can eat at the help yourself bar.

This is all served cafeteria style, you walk up, place your order and watch them assemble it. Chile relleno is taken from the reach-in and put on a plate, as is the enchilada. Its then put into one of the 6 or 7 industrial microwaves for no more than a minute. The cheese is all melted and the food is steaming when it exits the 'wave. The whole mess is slid onto a hot platter and handed to me.

The taco was fine, pre-fab fried corn tortilla stuffed with ground beef, lettuce and cheese. The tostada was the same thing only flat and had beans on it. The chile relleno was weird. It was a small burrito thingie with a strip of canned green chile and some white cheese in it. I ate it all. We laughed throughout the whole ordeal at the true horrible-ness of the food. I was ready to go. Z said we had to eat the sopapillas. These things had been sitting around since the Carter Administration. How do you eff up fried bread? Oh man. Easily the worst part of a truly bad meal.

Odd thing (well one of them), was that the place was busy at 3:00pm on a weekday. Lots of to-go orders and several people at tables. Normal looking people. The kind that should know better. This place is an anomaly that I will never understand. I just have to eat there every decade or so. I have to go now, I'm not feeling well. Rick Bayless, you have nothing to worry about from Don.

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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OK, Resurrecting this thread.

Zeemanb and I ditched work this afternoon. It was a nice sunny Friday and we couldn't think of anything better to do than play hooky from work and kill our stomachs. He starts to IM me about leaving early and heading to Don Chilito's Fine Mexican Cuisine. I think he's kidding and say, "I will if you will".  :raz: 

I didn't think they could really be as bad as I remember, they've been in business since I was a kid, they must be doing something right, right?

We walk in and notice the place is clean with new paint even, but there's an odor. Not a Mexican food odor though. I'm thinking, "Get a couple of tacos and get out". Z says, "I'm getting the Juarez Platter, and if you don't get a platter you're a wuss." I get the Combo Platter, a taco, tostada, cheese enchilada, chile relleno, rice and beans. Plus you get free sopapillas and all the chips and salsa you can eat at the help yourself bar.

This is all served cafeteria style, you walk up, place your order and watch them assemble it. Chile relleno is taken from the reach-in and put on a plate, as is the enchilada. Its then put into one of the 6 or 7 industrial microwaves for no more than a minute. The cheese is all melted and the food is steaming when it exits the 'wave. The whole mess is slid onto a hot platter and handed to me.

The taco was fine, pre-fab fried corn tortilla stuffed with ground beef, lettuce and cheese. The tostada was the same thing only flat and had beans on it. The chile relleno was weird. It was a small burrito thingie with a strip of canned green chile and some white cheese in it. I ate it all. We laughed throughout the whole ordeal at the true horrible-ness of the food. I was ready to go. Z said we had to eat the sopapillas. These things had been sitting around since the Carter Administration. How do you eff up fried bread? Oh man. Easily the worst part of a truly bad meal.

Odd thing (well one of them), was that the place was busy at 3:00pm on a weekday. Lots of to-go orders and several people at tables. Normal looking people. The kind that should know better. This place is an anomaly that I will never understand. I just have to eat there every decade or so. I have to go now, I'm not feeling well. Rick Bayless, you have nothing to worry about from Don.

Now I know where not to go when I am up next weekend for the OK joes bbq event. Sounds like a truck stop, no matter how many people are there it is still bad.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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That brings back memories (not fond) of college days. The one in Lawrence had Texas Burritos for (IIRC) $1.99 on Tuesday nights. They weighed about 5 pounds and, of course, all of the chips, salsa, etc would pretty much fix you up for a week. Or ruin your appetite so you couldn't eat for the rest of the week, which worked out great with the college student budget. And there was a Baskin Robbins next door. Good times. :cool:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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My only Don Chilito's experience has been street fair food, but it was such that I was persuaded their in-store food was not even worth a shot. There are a lot of things you can blame on serving street food, but serving pretty much straight ground beef, with roughly zero seasoning...that's not one of them.

Given Don's proximity and seemingly healthy business, I have lately been entering the "reconsider phase," which usually lasts for several months before actual retrial.

Thank you for postponing that affair.

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Probably a separate topic but has anyone tried the Salvadoran restaurant on Merriam? I just noticed an ad for it in the Preview section on Thursday and was intrigued. It's good to see we're getting some pan-Latino (if that's the right word) cuisine in town.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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The food is genuinely awful, but we've been joking about going there for a couple of years just to make sure it was bad as we remember. It really was. I have have to say, it IS better quality than Casa Bonita in Denver (where I believe their tamales are shot out of an extruder). That's the only real comparison I have, with sheer quantity making up for microwave quality Mexican.

The tacos were okay. A lot like your white midwestern grandma used to make....

I do give them points for including Fanta strawberry in their fountain drinks. I love Fanta strawberry with my Tex-Mex (and my Go-Chicken-Go gizzards). And the "blended" and "chunky" signs above the two different kinds of salsa on the salsa bar was kind of funny.

I'm seriously not above enjoying a big plate of cheese and sour cream covered Tex-Mex with a bowl of cream cheese/velveeta/canned chile queso dip on the side when the mood (hangover) hits me, but DC's is pretty bad. It was well into the next day before my system was back to normal.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Probably a separate topic but has anyone tried the Salvadoran restaurant on Merriam?  I just noticed an ad for it in the Preview section on Thursday and was intrigued.  It's good to see we're getting some pan-Latino (if that's the right word) cuisine in town.

Actually, that's the perfect thing to get this train back on the track........I've read a couple of different articles that mentioned it. I'd love to go and try some pupusas, and see if the memories of my missionary days in early 1990 El Salvador get the post-traumatic stress a-flowin'....

Too lazy to look up the exact name, location or hours but I think it's called El Pulgarcito. I could be wrong, but the only other Salvadoran restaurant I know of is over off of Independence Avenue......can anyone confirm? And speaking of Independence Avenue, that whole strip is worthy of the type of recon Mike and I have tried to do down on Central and Kansas Avenues. When I was over there a year or so ago working on a graphic design project for school, I couldn't believe how many new restaurants and bodegas had popped up.

Anyway, off to get ready for the arrival of my tomato plants........

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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