By Jill Draper
A new place to get tacos and other Mexican fare opened last fall in Gomer’s Corner Shopping Center at 99th and Holmes Road, just a few doors down from Thai House. Penny and Douglas Mufuka own both restaurants and have hired Juan Zavala to run the new venture called Str-Eatz.
Zavala once was Penny’s boss when both worked at the Journey Steakhouse at Argosy Casino, and she thought of him when she and her husband were looking for someone to create a Mexican-themed menu and take charge of the business at Str-Eatz.
The menu features traditional tacos (both hard and soft shell), burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, quesadillas, salads and bowls. Two popular fish dishes are jerk cod tacos topped with queso fresco, sour cream and pickled slaw, and shrimp and crab tostadas served with jalapeno slaw, avocado, cilantro, lime juice and tomatoes. Entrees include chicken flautas and carnitas-filled chalupas or customers can order a 3-choice combo served with rice and beans.
Zavala grew up on a farm in Guanajuato, a city in central Mexico. He left home at age 17 to join his brothers in Kansas City, working as a dishwasher before graduating to salads, cook, sous chef and chef at various hotel and casino restaurants. Learning English was the most difficult task. Instead of taking notes from other chefs, he would “watch and do,” sometimes clocking out and coming back on his own time to learn a procedure. When he returned to Mexico to visit his parents, however, he was not allowed in the kitchen. That’s women’s work, his mother told him. Now he works with his son, Luis, while other family members sometimes help.
Penny Mufuka, who grew up on a farm in Phichit, Thailand, also started out as a dishwasher after arriving in the U.S. without speaking English. The Mufukas bought Thai House in 2013. In addition to Str-Eatz, they recently opened KC Thai at 12250 W. 135th St. in Overland Park (in the former Mai Thai spot) and are planning a late May opening for Bamboo Penny’s in Leawood’s Park Place, which will feature a rooftop tiki bar.
Str-Eatz is open for dine-in or carryout from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday. Tacos are on sale for $1.25 on Tuesday and all orders are 10% off on Sunday. No alcohol is sold, but Zavala would like to offer Mexican beer in the future.
At first Zavala wasn’t that familiar with Cinco de Mayo—the real Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16, not May 5—but he’s learned to celebrate it and may come up with a special that day. Check the restaurant’s website, str-eatzkc.com, or its Facebook page for more details.