Brooklyn, New York resident Adam Hutton grew up in Shawnee and returns home to Johnson County about once every 18 months. Every time he visits, there is one mandatory stop on his itinerary; Taco Via. On a recent trip, Hutton traveled directly from the Kansas City Airport to the landmark Mexican restaurant to feast on taco burgers and nachos. For Hutton, eating at Taco Via is “an important, nostalgic tradition.”
Adam Hutton’s passion for Taco Via is not unique. The Mexican eatery at 95th and Antioch in Overland Park enjoys a cult following that baffles longtime manager Tim Dengel. “It’s nuts” says Dengel, who has run the store since 1994. In 2011, Taco Via moved to a new location after the strip mall it had occupied since 1972 was torn down. Opening day for the brand new Taco Via saw a line of people that stretched all the way to 95th Street before the restaurant had even opened for business. Dengel says he wasn’t worried about moving to a new location. “They’ll find us,” he says with a laugh.
The new space is larger, features a digital menu, and has several flat-screen TVs mounted on the wall. But the food, and even the employees, remain the same. Debbie Izard has over 40 years of experience behind the counter and she possesses a photographic memory of important dates in Taco Via history. “We opened the new location on November 23, 2011,” Debbie says quickly when asked by Dengel.
Some people grew up eating at Taco Via locations that are long gone (Ranchmart and 75th and Metcalf are two examples), but they still pledge allegiance to the brand. The “I Love the Taco Via!!!” Facebook group currently has 3,496 members from coast to coast. Many locals and ex-Johnson Countians praise Taco Via on the page, and one woman even referred to eating there as “like a religious experience.” When it comes to Kansas City-area food traditions, barbecue joints usually come to mind. But for the devoted Taco Via fan base, a trip to 95th and Antioch, whether you’re coming from near or far, is at the top of the list.
– Matt Gilligan, Johnson County Museum