Chef Patrick Ryan is a culinary pioneer. His innovativeness has also made him a nomad, but not in the traditional sense. While his profession has led him to New York and Chicago, among other places, he gets his nomad-like quality via his 1973 Airstream, which he has converted to a mobile eatery.
Yes, a restaurant on wheels. This wild idea to buy an old trailer was a high risk, high reward gamble but his rolling restaurant is quickly gaining a cult-like following and is now the most difficult reservation to get in town. Combine a mobile kitchen serving Mexican fare and blasting old school hip hop music with a passionate chef and a damn entertaining evening awaits.
While Port Fonda is not the first food truck in Kansas City, it has to be the first to offer a sit down meal where the chef doubles as the host, waiter, busboy and entertainment. One table, two reservations per night on Fridays and Saturdays only. However, they have an incredible walk-up crowd that seemed to be never ending on this particular night. But dining inside "El Comedor" (as fondly named by Chef Ryan) is where it's at. We felt pretty cool being inside as everyone stared in amazement at our good fortune.
Studying under Rick Bayless, owner of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, I can only imagine how difficult it is to not want to open an authentic Mexican restaurant. If you're going to learn how to cook Mexican food in the United States, Rick Bayless is who you go to. While Kansas City has a lot of "Mexican" restaurants, many lack authenticity. Chef Ryan mentioned that while he can go to town on Americanized Mexican food, it's just not "real". And that's what he wanted to show Kansas City. True Mexican food. Our four course meal was just a taste of his prowess.
Port Fonda's take on Elote, which is corn on the cob traditionally sold as street food in Mexico. Sweet corn, crema and onions. Paired with pork belly and topped with Cotija cheese and hot sauce.
Just a perfect example of Chef Ryan's cooking style. Everything has balance. If the dish is spicy, it's paired with something sweet or savory to cut the heat. While Mexican food is spicy, it's not supposed to be a melt-your-face cuisine.
|Let the feast begin|
The third course was as impressive visually as it was tasting. It was seriously difficult to stop eating. A huge, roasted bone-in Berkshire pork shoulder served with corn tortillas and an array of toppings and salsas. Pipian Rojo, Pickled Peppers, Adobo Salsa, Chile de Arbol Salsa, Pickled Red Onions, Queso Fresco, Avocado, Pineapple and Habanero hot sauce were among the choices.
Really one of the most interesting and enjoyable dining experiences I've had in Kansas City. Not only was the food outstanding but the overall experience was almost hard to describe. To watch a chef, who really enjoys what he's doing, cook for the masses is exciting. But to then have the opportunity to pick his brain about his food and his vision for the future of his restaurant is special. Chef Ryan is a straight shooter who doesn't sugar coat things but it's somewhat refreshing because you know that it stems from a passion that he has for cooking.
As far as seeking out Port Fonda, you will usually find them in the Rieger parking lot at the corner of 20th and Main Street on the weekend and on 23rd and Washington/Cesar Chavez during the week.
Food: 9 / 10
Atmosphere: 9 / 10
Service: 9.5 / 10