One of the hard things about finding good Mexican food is that signs typically promise things that are not literally true. The outside promises a pastor cone, but then all they do is grill marinated pork on a flat top. But some places still use a trompo.
'al pastor' on Serious Eats
With their smoky asada and spicy salsas, Sergio's is winning over the hearts and stomachs of every working-class neighborhood they've entered.
I have been working on this recipe for longer than any other recipe I've ever worked on. But at long last, I'm pretty darn pleased with the results. Here's how to get the slow-cooked, crisply charred effect of tacos al pastor at home, no rotisserie required.
Real-deal tacos al pastor are made by cooking stacked, marinated pork shoulder slices in front of a vertical rotisserie. Here's how to get the same slow-cooked, crisply charred effect at home, no rotisserie required.
As far as I'm concerned, Atotonilco serves only al pastor. When it's on, it's one of the best versions around—crispy, caramelized, and charged with chiles.
At Tacos Al Pastor, there is no door and there is no mystery. A short, stubby taquero stands on the corner of Kingsley and Santa Monica Blvd., trompo spinning and spitting little bubbles of warm grease and pineapple juices. There's a walk-up window and a bubbling cauldron of various other cuts of meat, but the jig is up when you first spy the name along the awning of the tiny yellow building: This place serves al pastor. Ordering anything else just doesn't make sense.
When I visit a taqueria for the first time, I usually play the field, sampling as much of the menu as one man reasonably can. But if the taqueria in question is named Taqueria El Pastor, which also happens to be my favorite taco filling, then I don't need to waste time lollygagging around.
My second attempt at replicating the taste and texture of al pastor at home came with some nice improvements. My secret technique? Shaping the pork shoulder into a loaf pan first.
A second attempt at replicating the taste and texture of al pastor at home came with some nice improvements, along with a few set backs, using an interesting technique that could hold future promise.
I can see the al pastor spit from the sidewalk outside Birria Huentitan in Hermosa, and it looks glorious. Red-tinged marinated pork slowly turns, as a cook slices off hunks off with a large knife. But there is something else that also grabs my attention. That al pastor spit isn't some modified gyros machine, which most taquerias use to cook their al pastor. No, this is an actual al pastor spit, and instead of the standard gas flame it uses charcoal—a sight I haven't seen since Mexico City.
Most taquerias hawking al pastor in New York skip the spit, but Taco Mix maintains the tradition. The magnificent column of meat—bookended by slow-roasting pineapple— is sliced into thin shavings for tacos. It has the ability to stop pedestrians dead in their tracks.
I see the al pastor spit and it is running. Potentially, this is good news. Ever since I challenged myself to find the best al pastor in Chicago, I've been looking for places that actually cook the marinated pork on a spit and carve it to order. And here I see proof of the spit the moment I walk into De Cero Taqueria in the West Loop.
The adobado tacos ($1.75) at this Logan Square taqueria feature juicy hunks of caramelized pork that have an intense and deep chile flavor. Just don't call them al pastor.
Two trucks, Tacos Leo and Tacos Tamix, bring the trompo (that beautiful log of spinning al pastor) to heights not often seen outside of Mexico City. At each, the taqueros use a sharp knife to ease off generous slices of pastor directly onto a warm, waiting tortilla with a hunk of pineapple for good measure. But is one better?
"It may not be the prettiest-looking food but it's certainly one of the best examples of Chicago's great taqueria culture." [Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger] Tierra Caliente 1402 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago IL 60622 (map); 773-772-9804 The Short Order: Proper al pastor...