Trago: A Sip, A Bite, A Memory 4

Trago brings tapas-style dining to the Northland

Memories. That’s what Trago, the new tapas restaurant in Kansas City near Liberty, is based on. Kandi Kerns, the chef/owner is capturing the feeling and essence of dining experiences long past and making them available for the hungry diner today.

The restaurant opened in late 2016 after Kerns completed quite a bit of the build out herself. She has a small staff and enjoys being hands on with everything from menu planning to bourbon tasting. In short, she’s creating the restaurant that she’s always wanted to enjoy, even if that means 16 hour days for her.

The restaurant opened with an abbreviated menu of hot and cold tapas plus paellas and cheese and charcuterie plates. Kerns says that while she intended to expand the menu to a more expansive menu, she now plans on keeping the grand opening menu and instead offering daily specials. On Sundays, she offers brunch items as well with specials on bloody marys and a variety of breakfast items like huevos rancheros, frittatas, and Spanish tortillas.

While tapas is a Spanish style of eating, Trago combines both Spanish and Latin American cuisine. The memory that she is recreating is of a hidden restaurant that her grandmother took her to in her grandmother’s home country of Guatemala. Some of the best dishes on the menu harken back to those Latin American roots, as I would find out at a casual lunch with friends.

Since sharing is the theme of a tapas restaurant, we dove in with gusto. Plates like the black beans and plantains nailed the flavor of Central America. Kerns is using many of her grandmother’s recipes as a base and it shows. While many may think that refried beans are merely a forgotten side dish on a Mexican combo plate, with love and care and lots of garlic, they can be a delicious focus. The plantains were thick cut, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, a great accompaniment to the savory beans.

For a more Spanish themed dish, the fresh goat cheese in tomato sauce was a hit. The goat cheese was warmed just enough to spread easily and despite being in the dead of winter, the tomato sauce hinted at flavorful summer tomatoes. For those that want a little Mexican flair, Trago serves street tacos with either chicken, beef, pork or shrimp. The chicken version was my favorite with a tangy cilantro cream sauce.

Trago also offers charcuterie and cheese plates, outfitted with a wide variety of garnishes, including candied almonds, olives, and jam. There are several proteins and cheeses to choose from and plates are priced for how many people would enjoy them. A word to the wise–don’t overestimate the portions per person. They are delicious and you will want more than one piece per person.

The bar at Trago has a variety of options, from Spanish wines to house-made cocktails to a soon to be stellar bourbon selection. Kerns says that her intent with Trago was to create an atmosphere where diners could meet each other from table to table and make new friendships along the way. To that end, the dining room is warm and inviting with tables ideal for expanding. And when the weather is warmer, a great patio space invites people to lounge.

Trago is still finding its feet but the restaurant and its small staff are learning fast. What they do know is that their smaller menu of favorites is a hit and they are all putting their hearts and souls into the effort and it shows. For the winter, Trago is open for dinner only Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday. So grab a friend or make a friend when you get there. The staff at Trago is happy either way.