In recent weeks, Forbes magazine named Kansas City, KS as the taco capital of the United States.
“Home to more than 50 taco spots, many of them family businesses, the ‘Heart of America’ is a diverse city with no ethnic majority and a population that is more than 25% Latino or Hispanic identifying, most of which can be traced to Mexican origin,” Forbes said.
The magazine said that unlike other U.S. cities, Kansas City’s Mexican population comes from nearly all of Mexico’s cultural regions, which means KCK doesn’t specialize in carnitas, mole or sopes, but is home to masters of all Mexican dishes.
“If you can find it in Mexico, there’s a family in Kansas City serving it today,” the magazine said.
Alexis Contreras, who is 28 years old, shares ownership of Don Antonio Carniceria Tortilleria y Taqueria with his parents, and she is one of the youngest owners of a restaurant in KCK.
“It makes me feel really good being Mexican and knowing the place I grew up in is becoming famous for its food,” Contreras said. “I am proud to be Mexican.”
Contreras said that he feels happy because the Forbes feature will help more outsiders to learn that Kansas City is a great place for tacos and Hispanic culture.
“My favorite thing about owning a taco shop is exposing diversity,” he said.
Contreras said that every day he sees customers from a variety of different backgrounds and jobs, and he is happy to see them come together for food like tacos.
Jessica Contreras, not related to Alexis Contreras, is a graduate student in the UMKC School of Education majoring in higher education administration.
“It makes me happy and proud that our culture has made such an impact in the Kansas City community that we are considered the place for tacos,” Jessica Contreras said. “It’s nice to know the effect the Mexican culture has had and is having in the community.”
Jessica Contreras said that she had never seen a hard-shell taco until she came to the United States, but now there are so many fast-food chains serving hard shell tacos that they seem to be everywhere.
“The only thing that bothers me is the gentrification of our food,” said Jessica Contreras. “Especially with some of these places being labeled as legit Mexican cuisine and then you see their tortillas being made with some weird ingredients.”
Hector Gonzalez, 26, is from the Kansas City area and said that he is no stranger to the bevy of local taco establishments.
“I feel proud, because thanks to those who are taco restaurant owners, our culture is being shared and they are representing the Mexican culture for who we are,” Hector said.
Gonzalez stated that overall, the tacos being served in Kansas City are similar to what he remembers from Mexico, where he grew up.