Manager Alfonso Esqueda is a former CPA. or Alfonso Esqueda, manager, says everyone should try the taco with grasshoppers at least once. Photo by Jill Draper

Taco Cacao finds recipe for success as it expands across the metro

The streamlined menu includes street tacos, burritos, enchiladas, bowls and chili rellenos, plus desserts and a full bar. 

By Jill Draper

Cacao Restaurant at the corner of State Line Road and 103rd Street has renamed itself as Taco Cacao Taqueria. Instead of offering a broad menu with full service, customers now place their order at a walk-up counter and staff deliver it to their table.

Alfonso Esqueda, manager, says the change allows the restaurant to focus on its best-selling items while adapting to the ongoing shortage of workers in the food industry. The streamlined menu includes street tacos, burritos, enchiladas, bowls and chili rellenos, plus desserts and a full bar. 

“Nothing on the menu is spicy,” says Esqueda, who notes that heat can be added with various salsas. He names the three most popular tacos fillings as beef birria (slow roasted beef with special sauce), chicken al pastor (grilled chicken marinated in achote adobo sauce) and pork cochinita (marinated pulled pork shoulder). Most tacos are served with chopped onions, cilantro and other extras.

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Two special items are tacos and enchiladas made with chicken in a mole sauce cooked in-house from 23 spices, says Esqueda, who calls it a “grandma recipe.” There also are tacos featuring chapulines, which are small, toasted grasshoppers imported from Oaxaca. “They’re the protein of the future,” quips Esqueda, who describes the taste as similar to dried shrimp flavored with garlic, chile and lime. The grasshoppers are sprinkled atop a dollop of guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo.

“Some people are like, I have to try it. Close your eyes and get a bite—you’ll love it,” he says.

A beer or house margarita might be a helpful accompaniment. These drinks are discounted on Tuesdays, when the restaurant offers three tacos for $7.50. Discounts also will be available for food and drinks on Cinco de Mayo, May 5. 

A private dining room at the north end of the restaurant seats up to 25 people and can be reserved for no extra charge if each customer spends a minimum of $9. For other private occasions such as corporate events, weddings and graduations, there are two Taco Cacao food trucks for rent. Otherwise, the food trucks are stationed in Roeland Park and coming soon, the River Market area. A food truck was formerly parked in Waldo at Wornall Road and 79th Street, but now customers can order takeout from a building in the same spot.

Esqueda was an accountant in Mexico until he moved to Overland Park in 2016 to help his uncle, Victor Esqueda, and to provide more opportunities for his three children, who work at the restaurant on the weekends. “It was a big switch,” he says. “Here, I manage the numbers, but also the food and staff.” 

One change he plans is the addition of aqua fresca to the menu. These light, non-alcoholic beverages often are made from fruit or grains, and include horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made of white rice soaked in water and flavored with cinnamon and sugar. Other drinks are flavored with hibiscus, tamarind, and lime with chile.

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