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Mission Taco Joint: It’s Definitely Not Your Everyday Taco!

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In my house, taco night never fails to create a happy little buzz in the air. It’s a family favorite and a meal that I know everyone will eat without complaint. I am not allowed to mess with the family tacos; it’s ground beef, flour tortillas, shredded lettuce and shredded cheddar, with other toppings on the side for me and the more food-adventurous children. My children do not appreciate creativity in the kitchen, which is why it’s so fun for me to hit up places that turn the humble taco into a foodie fiesta. Mission Taco Joint in the East Crossroads is right at the top of my KC taco tour must-try list.

St. Louis natives may recognize this brand. Brothers Jason and Adam Tilford have been steadily gaining popularity on the other side of the state, prompting them to venture into the KC market and opening the only location outside St. Louis last fall.

Mission Taco Joint serves a Baja-style street taco, inspired by the brothers’ experience living in the Mission district of San Francisco, which is famous for its taquerias, featuring a specific regional take on the street taco. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel to San Fran to get it; the Tilford brothers have developed a creative, funky menu to delight those who get tired of the same old ground beef and cheddar cheese and want to try something with a little olé! in it.

There are a lot of unique options, and you can try several at a time with the a la carte-style menu. My standout favorite is the Baja Fish (fried, of course) with chipotle Baja sauce, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and queso fresco. It is light, crispy and loaded with tangy flavors. For a starter, the Carne Asada Fries are an indulgent, shareable appetizer and an interesting take on traditional nachos with wood-fire grilled flank steak, chile-crusted potato fries, and chihuahua cheese, topped with guacamole, crema and pico de gallo. It pairs perfectly with a cold draft beer. There are 12 taps featuring a rotating selection of local and west coast brews.

A close second favorite is the Portobello, with wood-fire grilled Portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, crispy onions, arugula, smashed black beans and huitlacoche aioli. It is an absolute must-try. There are also rotating taco specials every two months, which are often collaborations with local businesses. These will be some of the most appealing tacos you will ever put in your mouth!

The street tacos come in a soft corn tortilla, but the kitchen here is very allergen friendly and happy to make any necessary tweaks to the standard menu. They always offer vegetarian and vegan options as well. Salsa is made fresh daily in house, and when you order chips and salsa, you’ll get two varieties of their specialty recipe.

If burritos are more your thing, you have to go with the signature Brah’rito, filled with carne asada, chipotle bacon, black beans, crema, chile-crusted potato fries, chihuahua cheese and ancho sauce, topped with guacamole and pico de gallo. If I’ve learned anything as the Cravings writer, it’s that you cannot go wrong by ordering the signature items at a restaurant. They’ve been tested and perfected, and they are popular for a reason.

Tacos and burritos aren’t the only features raising curious eyebrows and drawing crowds. The cocktails at Mission Taco Joint are some of the best in the city. Bar manager Jenn Tosatta is something of a local mixology legend, and she’s serving up some dangerously delicious concoctions that are artworks in a glass. Everything is made fresh here—the juices, the syrups, and they even crush their own ice! Every drink I’ve tried is delicious, but my favorite has to be the Zombie, which is a powerful combination of white rum, dark rum, over-proof rum, citrus juice, falernum, grenadine, cinnamon syrup and bitters. Be careful, my dears, because it packs a punch but goes down like water. There is a two-drink maximum for this one, so I suggest taking it slow.

Dining en plein air is one of my favorite things, and I’m a sucker for a cool set of garage doors to turn a regular dining room into a super-hip indoor/outdoor experience. Mission Taco also has new sidewalk seating, so guests can enjoy the vibrant energy of the East Crossroads neighborhood while they crush some tacos and sip some cocktails.

Mission Taco Joint is open 11:00 a.m. until midnight Sunday through Thursday. During the lunch rush, they have quick, attentive service and will have you back to work in no time. On Friday and Saturday, Mission Taco Joint is open until 1:00 a.m., serving food until 12:30 a.m., so it’s a great option when you find yourself a bit hungry after a night on the town. Late-night happy hour begins at 10:00 p.m. and runs until close every night.

For more information about special events and a full menu, visit

Cravings writer Erin McIntosh works at the Kansas City Art Institute and is a freelance writer and portrait photographer. In addition to writing about the amazing KC food scene, she contributes to KC Parent Magazine. She is currently working on her first book – part memoir and part single parenting survival guide. Erin is a mother and stepmother to four children and the family table is the hub of the household. But whether at home or out on the town, Erin believes that sharing a great meal with family and friends is vital to health and happiness.