No Tex-Mex here. Authentic Mexican breakfast, lunch restaurant opens in Johnson County

A sun-soaked patio, glasses of agua fresca and plates of chilaquiles — it’s the closest many Kansas Citians will get to a cafe in Mexico City.

No jars of Pace salsa or cheesy Tex-Mex burritos here. (In fact, owner Alejandra de la Fuente joked she wants to pass a law prohibiting restaurants serving chips and salsa from calling themselves “Mexican.” Not a thing in Mexico, she said.)

De la Fuente boasts that her food is “cien por ciento Mexicana” (100% Mexican). So much so, that’s what she named her new brunch and lunch spot in downtown Overland Park — Red Kitchen KC: Cien por Ciento Mexicana.

“Order what is on the menu; it’s going to be good,” she said. “Try what is really authentic Mexican food.”

Her restaurant quietly opened in January, and she’s hoping for a grand opening celebration in April. In the meantime, it’s attracted a faithful following, like the man who sat at one of de la Fuente’s heavy wooden tables, tasted his breakfast, and passed his glowing compliments on to manager Emily Vogel.

“He said, ‘I lived in Mexico for the first 20 years of life, and this brought me right back,’” Vogel recalled.

At 7926 Santa Fe Drive, right by The Peanut and Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop, a garage door opens to a sidewalk heavy with foot traffic (and even more to come, when the farmers market opens in April).

White countertops, black accents and fresh flowers inside the dining room welcome customers, who munch on tres leches doughnuts and bolillo con cajeta, or rolls with dulce de leche.

Other menu items include breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros and molletes.

And then there are the tamales, which started de la Fuente’s food journey in the first place.

Twenty years ago, de la Fuente moved to the United States. She cleaned houses in Kansas City for years but always found satisfaction in the kitchen.

Alejandra de la Fuente owns Cien por Ciento Mexicana in downtown Overland Park.
Alejandra de la Fuente owns Cien por Ciento Mexicana in downtown Overland Park.

“A lot of people love to read, a lot of people love to watch TV,” she said. “For me, cooking is relaxing.”

In 2017, she opened Red Kitchen KC, a tamale stand inside the Lenexa Public Market. She later upgraded to a bigger space there and expanded her breakfast offerings.

“I was like, ‘I will not go bigger than this, this is all I can handle,” she said.

Funny now, as she sits in her own dining room with customers.

Her food was a hit with public market goers, and she even earned the title of “best burritos in Kansas” by Food & Wine in 2018.

In December, she moved out of her Lenexa stall to open her downtown Overland Park space. There are countless positives to the move, but her new kitchen is slightly more secluded. That’s why she makes a point to pop out of the kitchen and chat with visitors in between rushes. She doesn’t want to get away from that.

Cien por Ciento serves authentic Mexican breakfast and lunch.
Cien por Ciento serves authentic Mexican breakfast and lunch.

And her customers have remained loyal during the move, especially the ones who made weekly trips, ordering dozens of burritos and tamales at a time.

She teared up as she recalled a visit from a woman whose house she cleaned for 10 years. The two hugged and cried — a reminder of where she’s been, and where is today.

“I came with nothing,” she said. “They’re proud of me and happy for me.”

Cien por Ciento is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.