Although St. Joseph, Missouri – where the Pony Express began and Jesse James
met his untimely end – may seem an unlikely place to find outstanding Mexican food, the city on the banks of the mighty Missouri River has three fine restaurants that feature authentic Mexican food.
Although St. Joseph is located far north of the Border, the city’s early industries drew immigrants from many nations including Mexico. Some of the city’s oldest Hispanic families came to work in the city’s stockyards and packing houses. In the city’s heyday, both Swift’s and Armour’s had large packing plants that hired thousands of employees. St. Joseph was the third largest packing center in the nation and many Hispanic families came for the steady work.
Like other immigrants, the group left their mark on the city in many ways but one of the most lasting legacies is Mexican food. St. Joseph residents enjoy Mexican cuisine. Long before chains like Taco Bell or Taco Mayo offered their brand of Tex-Mex food, St. Joseph was eating the real deal – burritos, enchiladas, hot tamales, and more. The tradition continues today with three outstanding restaurants.
Barbosa’s Castillo dominates the downtown skyline because it is housed in an impressive turn-of-the-century mansion. Three floors of restaurant serve up the family’s own recipes for burritos, enchiladas, tamales, salsa, and much more. Some local residents can claim that their families have eaten Barbosa’s food for generations – some since the matriarch began selling foods from her own kitchen to friends and neighbors. A rooftop cantina offers fun nightlife and on the main floor, diners can choose from an extensive menu. Try the tamales that are still wrapped in real corn husks or a side of refried beans. Home made taco and tostado shells demonstrate the difference in this elegant, yet comfortable venue. Another location in on the far eastern edge of St. Joseph offers the same food but without the ambiance.
Palma’s on the north Belt Highway is another local favorite. Palma’s offerings of authentic Mexican cuisine are also based on family recipes. One of the favorite dishes found here is chicken fajitas, served sizzling from the kitchen. Decor combines old Mexico with Southwestern style for a comfortable dining spot with delicious food.
La Mesa Mexican Restaurant on Mitchell Avenue offers diners both delicous Mexican foods and a lively atmosphere. Listen to the Spanish chatter from the chefs and enjoy the often loud Mexican cantina music. A number of comfortable booths offer privacy. Servings here are large and spicy. Cocktails are available and the menu is amazing in its wide selection of items.
Some locals prefer one restaurant over another but many patronize all three at various times. All offer good service and great food with a measure of local tradition tossed in for good measure.