Carlos Mortera is making food we’re always in the mood for: Best of KC 2019

At The Bite and now Poi-ō, Mortera is zeroing in on gastronomic pleasure centers. // Photo by Zach Bauman

Our annual Best of Kansas City 2019 issue is out now. Go grab a copy. Alternatively, you can browse the results of the readers’ poll here. The issue also includes a list, compiled and written by The Pitch’s editorial staff, shouting out some of our current favorite things about KC. We’ll be publishing these items online throughout the month of October.

In 2014, Carlos Mortera opened The Bite (23 E. 3rd Street), a Mexican-Korean sandwich joint in the City Market. It’s a low-key, no-frills, workweek-lunch kind of place. But it has style—Mexican street art and social justice fliers dot the walls—and, most importantly, the sandwiches are dynamite. Mortera has keen instincts for flavor profiles and ingredient combinations, as evidenced by the Senor Chang (beef short ribs, queso, a sriracha crema, candied jalapenos, pickled onions, radish, cilantro) and the Bay of Pigs (roasted pork, prosciutto, smoked gouda, habanero pickles, mustard mayo), two sandwiches we order from The Bite with borderline-alarming regularity.

So we were overjoyed to discover, late last year, that Mortera and his father (also named Carlos Mortera) were in the process of opening a new restaurant. In December, Poi-Ō (1000 West 25th Street) arrived on the Westside, specializing in the kind of wood-fired chicken Carlos Sr. once served at rotisserie restaurants he once owned in Queretaro, Mexico. (If you’ve ever been to El Pollo Rey in Kansas City, Kansas, you’ll understand what the Morteras are going for at Poi-Ō.) The stripped-down options include a half-chicken ($8.50) or a whole chicken ($16), which come with tortillas and pickled veggies, or a half-slab of adobo pork ribs ($11.95), and one of about a half-dozen $3.50 sides such as kimchi fried rice or lemon roasted potatoes. And that’s it. (You’ll also want to sample the salsas on offer, particularly the verde and the charred jalapeno.) The servings are big—a half-chicken can easily get you two full meals—and the birds are juicy, and if you’re like us, pretty soon you’re going to have a hard time going longer than a week without finding yourself inside one of Mortera’s irresistible eateries.

Categories: Food & Drink