Friday, January 28, 2011

It's been a fast-food kind of week in Fat City

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Yes, the Humdinger serves tacos. Good, cheap meaty tacos.
  • Yes, the Humdinger serves tacos. Good, cheap meaty tacos.


It's been kind of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate week here in Fat City, thanks to the scandal surrounding the lawsuit filed against Taco Bell. Attorneys for the claimant say the fast-food giant uses a "beef" product in its Tex-Mex creations that's only 35-percent beef after you take out all the binders and extenders.

But why eat at Taco Bell at all? Kansas City has plenty of terrific small taquerias and even a few independently owned drive-ins that serve a superior taco. Read on for more about that, and other stories.


And on the subject of fast food, let's not leave out Hardee's and White Castle. No, there's not a White Castle left in the metro (though Kansas City was once a big market for the franchise shortly after the company was started in Wichita, back in 1921), but there are frozen burgers in the supermarket if you wish to make this strange-sounding Super Bowl snack.

There's still an original White Castle building at Ninth Street and Grand -- the Spino family, of Anthony's on Grand, has used it for storage for years -- not terribly far from the Power & Light District, where Drunken Fish Sushi Restaurant and Lounge plans to open in two weeks. We also reported the spring opening set for a new Mexican cantina and saloon on the Country Club Plaza (a partnership between the operators of Frida's Contemporary Mexican Cuisine in south Johnson County and midtown's Sol Cantina). Another opening this week -- this one in Omaha -- was a satellite branch of Kansas City-based Blanc Burgers + Bottles.

It's always good to hear about new restaurants opening after reporting about popular places closing, including the Neighbor's Cafe in Lee's Summit. This Sunday afternoon will be the last hurrah for that family-owned diner. There's been some kind of family-run restaurant in this space for a half-century, so we feel confident that some other ambitious restaurateur will continue this legacy.

But now, on to the question posed at the beginning of this post: Why even go to Taco Bell? Kansas City still has several local drive-ins that survived the 1960s juggernaut of McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King and KFC franchises.

There are precious few left, but one of our favorites, The Humdinger, is still operating at 2504 East Ninth Street, 49 years after it opened. It ranks right up there with other iconic local drive-ins: Harold's on Admiral Boulevard, Mug's Up Root Beer Drive-In on 23rd Street and Theresa's Drive-In on Truman Road. Each of these places has been around a lot longer than Taco Bell.

click to enlarge Like Taco Bell, but with lots of meat.
  • Like Taco Bell, but with lots of meat.
The Humdinger sells delicious meaty tacos for 99 cents each or the four-pack for $3.75. They're delicious. (Be warned: There are hot sauces two available that the cooking staff puts on the tacos as they prepare them, mild and kick-ass hot.) You can get a taco burger, too.

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