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Margarita’s Amigos: Mexican Food that’s Always Fresh, Always Personal, Always Happy

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It’s said that the people who give you their food, give you their heart. Each month I see, feel and taste the truth in that statement. Chefs and owners share stories of sacrifice, success, inspiration and the joy they feel when customers love what they have prepared. The next time you’re dining at a restaurant, take a bite or sip, pause, and think about what went into that moment and the history and inspiration you’re tasting.

This is the story of Dave Quirarte, Ron Abarca and Larry Gromer, three amigos who have been cooking up delicious Mexican food in Kansas City for 39 years. Yes, for 39 years Kansas Citians have picked Margarita’s to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, feed a hungry sports team after a tournament or simply impress a friend or out-of-town guest with fresh, delicious, classic Mexican food served by some of the friendliest folks around.

Seated in a cozy booth at the original location on Southwest Boulevard, Dave Quirarte Jr. shared the delightful beginning of this storied restaurant. Dave worked the night shift at General Motors with his childhood friend, Ron Abarca. In 1985, these two decided to cook burritos for their co-workers, so, each day, after working their shift, Dave and Ron would begin cooking burritos for the next day. Their daily batch of 50 burritos sold out on the first day and by the end of the first month, they were selling 300 burritos a day! With an established clientele that appreciated their classic-style burritos, they were in business. In October of the same year, they opened the original Margarita’s Amigos on Southwest Boulevard.

Business was good, but after the Kansas City Star published an article in 1986 touting the success of Margarita’s, Dave and Ron discovered what it meant to have a booming business! “About every night, the line started at the door and ran down the sidewalk and around the building with a 2-3 hour wait for a seat!” Dave said. “People were hanging out and drinking under the bridge until we had a table for them! We had only 60 seats!” By 1987 they were ready to knock out a wall and expand their space; they were just getting started.

1991 was a big year. They opened their second location on North Oak Traffic Way, Larry Gromer joined the ownership team and Margarita’s became the official caterer for the Kansas City Royals. Thirty-two years later, they still cater for the boys in blue as well as the visiting team and umpires at every home game. Dave smiled widely while telling me about catering during the World Series years and showing me a picture of his son, Jason, with George Brett.

By 1995, they had opened Margarita’s West on Johnson Drive, Margarita’s South at 135th & Holmes and their Margarita’s Sauce Company, making their delicious salsa available at local grocers. The fifth location opened in Liberty in 2020, the same year their amazing chips could be found next to their salsa at the grocer.

Let’s Taco ’Bout the Food!
Corn or flour, crunchy, soft or puffy, filled with fish, chicken, pork or beef, no matter how you 8like your tacos, I suspect you’ll agree that tacos are a “happy food.” Today is the perfect day to visit one of the five Margarita’s locations and order the Puffy Taco Dinner. It’s two flour tortillas generously stuffed with cheese, lettuce and diced tomatoes with your choice of fajita chicken, steak, tilapia or shrimp, served with a side of beans and their fluffy, seasoned-just-right rice.

If you’re a purist and want the satisfying crunch of a traditional taco, order the Gringo, deep-fried or authentic, your choice of meat and served with beans and rice. Go ahead and order a bowl of their famous Queso, it’s perfectly creamy and smooth and not too spicy, always my favorite, especially with the House Lime Margarita. Their margs are divine! I don’t like my drinks too sweet so I reach for the traditional lime margarita, but their Strawberry Margarita is just right! Both can be ordered frozen or on the rocks, and to go!

I asked Dave which menu item was the most popular. He turned to his son, Jason, and said with a big grin, “Ask him, he runs the place now.” Jason loves the restaurant business and, more so, loves the business his dad built with his dear friends Ron and Larry. Jason grew up in the restaurant business and certainly learned from some of the best, but he also believed a bit of restaurant experience outside of Margarita’s would be valuable. After some time in Arizona, he returned to Kansas City and began working full time at Margarita’s.

“Margarita’s is my family, everyone in the back is family. We have cooks that have been here 30 years. They arrive at 5:00 a.m. every day and start slow cooking the pork, preparing the sauces and everything else. Everything is made in our kitchen, every single day; it’s as fresh as it gets and our customers appreciate it.” When I asked Jason what his favorite menu item might be, without hesitation he smiled and said, “Tacos!”

For menu details, five locations, online ordering and catering, visit


Art director, illustrator and entrepreneur Sheryl Hammontree is happiest when creating. As a freelancer, she creates visual styling and targeted messaging to strategically solve challenges for clients. As the owner of Thoughtful Threads, she creates expressive apparel to empower people and build a community of kindness. Sheryl heads outside to find energy, inspiration and calm; whether in the garden or on a trail, her soul is fed by creating memories with her husband, Joel, family and friends.