Al Chile Taco Shop opens in downtown Shawnee, serving ‘fusion’ of authentic and Tex-Mex cuisine

Al Chile Taco Shop

Al Chile Taco Shop makes its debut Monday, Oct. 25, in downtown Shawnee. Above, from left, Camila Ocampo and Juan Valencia with EDesign Agency designed and installed signage at the restaurant, while Martha Dominguéz of Net Management Services, Beronica Palomares and Alejandro Martínez with Al Chile Taco Shop put on the finishing touches last weekend.

A new taco shop opens Monday in downtown Shawnee next door to city hall.

After years of standing vacant — and rumors floating that there could be a piano bar at the site — the site will debut as Al Chile Taco Shop.

Located at 11200 Johnson Drive, the taco shop is the first restaurant in Johnson County under the family-owned Las Lindas brand. The Shawnee-based parent company, owned by Beronica Palomares, also has another Mexican restaurant in Raytown, Mo.

“We are excited, but nervous, too,” Palomares said. “We’re expecting that this area is a really good area to have a taco shop, because there’s nothing close to here that’s similar. We’d like to be involved in the community and see how the people respond and how the people like our tacos.”

Leading the design and direction of the menu is Alejandro Martínez, an award-winning local chef who hopes to introduce some familiar, Tex-Mex tastes while keeping true to the familiar homestyle flavors that Mexican natives and locals will also recognize and enjoy.

“I want to make the people connect with the food. I want to find the authentic recipes from there and get to make them here,” Martínez said. “When people try my food, they remember their grandmas, their grandpas. I would like to invite the people around and give us a chance and an opportunity to get to know the fusion of Mexican and Tex-Mex.”

Chef Alejandro Martínez, who won a local culinary competition a few years ago, will lead the direction of the menu.

For instance, Martínez plans to partner with vendors from Mexico who will provide the fresh, authentic products to inspire the cuisine at Al Chile Taco Shop.

Palomares said she also hopes to bring a fusion of flavors into each dish that are unique.

“We want to fuse real Mexican cuisine with Tex-Mex, make it a fusion,” Palomares added. “We don’t want to forget that the food is not really, really authentic. We don’t want to confuse the concept. Tex-Mex is the food that everybody knows. So it’s Mexican recipes, plus cheese.”

While working at another restaurant in Martin City, Mo., Martinez was named the 2017 champion of the The Culinary Fight Club Kansas City’s taco contest, a live competitive cook off event.

A website for Al Chile is coming soon, and once it launches, the shop will offer online ordering as well as dine-in, delivery, carry-out and curbside pickup services.

The restaurant is also working to get its liquor license and build a catering service, Palomares said.

Al Chile Taco Shop will also limit capacity in the meantime in an effort to maintain physical distancing between customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff also ask that customers wear a mask.

Al Chile Taco Shop’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Sunday.