Thursday, April 29, 2010

Teocali, Authentic Mexican

When one works at or around home, a person feels the need to get out of the place now and then. So when most are returning home from a work place and want to cozy up in their own home, I am planning an escape. Thus I eat out more than I should. You would think that I would know every restaurant in town, but that is not the case. I tend to find a favorite or two and stick to my routine. Even in my escape from routine and familiar I tend to play it safe.

Thus my new favorite, once a week at least, hot spot is a charming, small and locally owned (usually my prerequisite for a good restaurant) Mexican restaurant, Teocali.

Teocali has been around since 2006, but I first visited about 6 months ago. A neighbor of mine suggested it to me in the past, but I was absorbed in Thai then and had no time for Mexican. When Greg told me about it, I remembered the ringing endorsement of my neighbor and decided to try it out.

Set just south of the sprawling UMKC medical complex and Children's Mercy Hospital, Teocali is bustling at lunch with all the doctors, nurses and students from the hospitals and medical school. The lunch specials are a bit cheaper and more routine fare such as tacos, burritos, taco salad, etc. than the dinner menu but are tasty, quick, fresh and with generous but not wasteful portions.

The owners state, both on their website and to customers personally, that the dishes are authentic and similar to the recipes used by their family for generations. The Gutierrez family is usually around while open and are always friendly and chatty. One can tell that the place already has a regular following.

Dinner menu is a bit more limited than some Mexican places, but that is fine by me as the selections are carefully prepared and sometimes off the beaten path. For example, one has to experience the unique Flautas Nortenas, a bit larger and not as dry as regular flautas, with a crisp flour tortilla wrapped around flavorful chicken and a tangy, smoky chipotle sauce. My friend Greg loves the sopes; masa patties layered with beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, monterrey cheese and sour cream, a variation on a traditional tostada. Last night I had some of the best carne asada I have ever had, tender and spicy with 6 plump, butter and garlic kissed shrimp, a bargain at $13.99. The fajitas are generous and full of tasty grilled meats and lots of onions and peppers. The ubiquitous sides of rice and beans are always flavorful and fresh. I have been less impressed with the burritos; the meat inside, whether chicken or beef is on the bland side. The chips and salsa (which they, like a growing number of restaurants do, charge for) are excellent.

My biggest quibble is with the margaritas. Strong, generous sized and tasty, but they are on tap and are often a bit fizzy. A carbonated margarita is not really my thing, but it does not stop me from enjoying them. However, last night there was not a hint of fizz and on some but not all past visits the fizz has been less noticeable. My suggestion: find a way to keep them easily on tap but without the carbonation. The bar is well stocked and features a slew of tequila which I have not sampled but looks impressive as I remember my tequila slamming days.

Tex-Mex fans will be disappointed in the lack of thick sauces, heavy cheese and hot spices. The flavors are more natural, smoky and lighter than the usual, which makes Teocali a special and unique treat.

Teocali is located at 2512 Holmes directly south of the UMKC Dental School and just east of Crown Center. Sadly, not open Sunday, my favorite day to go out, but open to 10 most nights for the late crowd.

1 comment:

Amy Highfill said...

It was YUMMY!