As fellow panelist Charles Ferruzza of the Food Critics show is quick to point out, I am picky about my Mexican food. And he is spot on. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been spoiled by New Mexican fare in Santa Fe, or the real deal south of the border. Although there is a growing Hispanic population in Kansas City, I am not often satisfied by the Mexican restaurants in our area. I have given up going to any of the ones on Southwest Blvd., with the exception of Poco’s on the Blvd, which I consider a different genre. I enjoy Fiesta Azteca in Raytown and think the carnitas that Andres Orozco serves are some of the best around. I need to drive east to Independence Ave., where I understand there are several worthy contenders.
But the other day I went west, to Merriam, and found a little gem. La Cabana Del Pollo is the latest reincarnation in the venue where Coyoacan/Tamales to Go and Pollo Loco once stood, at 5816 Merriam Drive. They both focused on roast chicken and tamales and, while those items are still available, the new restaurant has broadened its offerings to include additional Mexican specialties.
We arrived after the lunch rush and the place was empty, but absolutely immaculate. It was fun looking over the menu because there were so many dishes begging to be sampled. We were tempted by the Cochinita Pibil, pork that has been marinated and topped with achiote sauce and cooked red onion. You can find this on every corner in Cancun, but not in Kansas City. However, we were even more drawn to the Adobo de Puerco, which is one of my favorite dishes in Santa Fe–slow roasted pork in a spicy red chile sauce, served with rice, beans and tortillas. We were intent on trying the mole, so we also ordered chicken enchiladas with mole sauce, only to learn that the lunch crowd had lapped it all up. The server/owner’s mother makes it from scratch, which is incredibly labor intensive, and I can’t wait to go back to try it. We settled for enchiladas “Christmas” style, half red, half green sauce, which was less successful but still tasty. The red was spicier, but I much preferred the green sauce. The corn tortillas are not made in-house, but I doubt they were store-bought. We also enjoyed a pork tamale, and though that particular food is not my cup of tea, my husband pronounced it light, moist and delicious.
In addition to be delighted with the meal, my husband was equally happy with the bill. A whole chicken with sides is $12.55, but most of the other offerings are under $7, including chips and salsa. That, by the way, was my only disappointment–the chips were fine, but the salsa lacked flavor and punch.
It may not be in my neck of the woods, but this is certainly a place I intend to seek out again, and again.