Usually, when that urge for south of the border chow hits, a savvy KC citizen would head to the great Mexican restaurants along Southwest Blvd., up in KCK, or in the Crossroads area to find fine offerings of this cuisine. But in Lenexa, KS, at the southwest corner of 87th St. and Lackman Blvd., is a wonderfully quirky, locally owned Mexican eatery named Panzon’s. Look for the metal palm tree that sits right outside their outdoor patio and if going on a Friday or Saturday for dinner be prepared for a wait.
Once inside you will be treated to one of the most interesting and eclectic displays of Mexican and southwestern folk art that you are likely to find anywhere in the area. The decor includes lots of artwork over the bar and on the walls but my favorites are the “Day of the Dead” figures and taxidermy frogs that are in the cases around the waiting area. It’s a lot of fun to look at the displays and see the little visual jokes that are a part of the genre. The display over the bar is nothing if not unique with a huge variety of folk art pieces to look at and little surprises tucked away here and there.
The dining areas are painted in bright colors and the lighting serves a dual purpose to highlight the folk art and southwestern paintings adorning the walls as well as illuminate the dining areas. The restaurant is very clean and spacious so that it does not feel crowded even when full of customers (although the lobby can get a little packed on the busy nights). The margarita’s are really good and available by glass or pitcher. They boast 140 different types of tequila available so don’t get too carried away trying to work thru all of them (pace yourself). There is a bar area with limited counter and table seating and a spacious outdoor covered patio. They have some great happy hour food and drink specials on weekdays!
I came for dinner in the middle of the week and was greeted and seated in a few minutes. Upon seating tortilla chips and a tasty salsa are provided gratis. The chips are fried up in-house so were warm and fresh. The salsa is pureed nicely, which I prefer to the chunky style, and thick enough to stay on the chip for a clean trip from the bowl to your mouth. The salsa itself is mildly spicy but there are several different hot sauces on the table you can use if you want to dial up the heat. The saltiness of the chips and salsa combined with the sweetness of a margarita caused me to uncontrollably shovel chips into my mouth leaving little room for the entree but that’s why we have take-home boxes. Service was attentive, but not overly so, and efficient.
The menu is large and has all the usual tex-mex dinner items (enchiladas, burritos, tacos, tamales, etc.) and what I have had has been executed well and very tasty. An unusual appetizer at Panzon’s is the “Fresh Crisp Avocado Wedges” offering. It is four avocado slices dipped in a house-made coating, deep-fried, served on a bed of green onions, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and came with a tasty dipping sauce. You wouldn’t think avocados would take well to being deep-fried but the folks at Panzon’s know what they are doing and they are quite good. I recommend it.
For an entree my personal favorite is the #11 Baja Taco Combination Dinner so that’s what I went with. It consists of four street tacos (asada beef, carnitas, roasted pork, and chicken) sprinkled with jack cheese and cilantro. The fillings are nicely seasoned with a generous portion of each. The tacos are soft and easy to hold in one hand. I like to add a little of the house salsa to the tacos but they are great without too. The dinner comes with tasty, if ubiquitous, Mexican rice and whole or refried beans. It was delicious as usual.
For desert there are several good choices but I went with the cheesecake and was a bit disappointed. Tasty but not very thick and still frozen in middle. Next time I will go with the Mexican Sundae: vanilla ice cream with a jalapeno/raspberry chocolate sauce and sopapillas. Yum!
The restaurant opened in Lenexa in 1990 and has been featured in several local publications not only for their artwork but also the food. The food is usually very good and the decor is unique. It is truly a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. Their motto is “art – food – tequila” and I think they nailed it.