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Monday, April 14, 2014

Lalo’s Express serves up authentic, affordable Mexican food

Andrew Gough
Wichita Eagle Dining Panel

Cheap eats and interesting meats are two reasons to try Lalo’s Express, a colorfully painted building at the corner of Harry and Seneca.

I often drive south on Seneca to pick up rental cars, and I must have passed by Lalo’s Express 40 times before I gave it a try. I’m an adventurous eater, and I’ll try just about anything once.

When I visited, the restaurant was clean and relatively empty. A friendly cashier helped me navigate the enormous menu. My first observation: The most expensive menu item was $7.45. And I quickly learned this was not just your typical Mexican fare. This place was going to be something special.

We started with some combination plates that included beans and rice. One featured a hard-shell beef taco and a tostada ($6.15), and the other had a steak chimichanga ($7.10). The taco had a freshly fried corn shell, and the chimichanga was huge. It featured a flour tortilla filled with flavorful carne asada (grilled steak), beans and sauteed peppers and was deep-fried until crisp. The beans and rice were less than impressive, but who really goes to a Mexican restaurant for the side dishes?

I generally go for the authentic flavors on any menu. For me, it was the tacos ($1.95 each). I chose carnitas, buche and barbacoa, all of which came with standard taco dress (chopped onions and cilantro). I also squeezed on fresh lime juice and added hot salsa.

The carnitas were juicy but lacked bold flavors. Buche is not for the faint of heart. The menu describes it very honestly as “stomach pork.” It has the look and texture of thin-sliced mushrooms and tastes great. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised.

The taco that stole the show was the one filled with barbacoa, which is shredded beef from the jowls of the cow. If you know about cheek meat, this is the best cut to sample on most animals. Lalo’s barbacoa is amazing. It’s twice-cooked, roasted or stewed, then finished on a flat top until crispy, finally resting onto two soft corn tortillas. This taco is what makes Lalo’s special.

Lalo’s is known for breakfast, which is served all day. The chorizo burrito ($3.90) comes stuffed with about a pound of scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, cheese and homemade chorizo, which is a dark red ground pork sausage oozing in chili spices. I could taste the authenticity in this non-typical burrito.

We drank horchata ($1.50 for a medium), a delicious and refreshing authentic Mexican drink made from sweetened rice. It tastes like rice pudding with hints of cinnamon and vanilla.

Lalo’s has a drive-through, which comes in handy for late-night burrito cravings or the morning commute.

The burritos are rolled tight and hold together well. They would make for a perfect single-hand driving meal.

Andrew Gough is a member of the Wichita Eagle Dining Panel. Read more about the panel, including member reviews, at Kansas.com/dining.

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