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Tacos Al Pastor
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  • Tacos Al Pastor

    Post #1 - October 5th, 2004, 3:52 pm
    Post #1 - October 5th, 2004, 3:52 pm Post #1 - October 5th, 2004, 3:52 pm
    Tacos Al Pastor
    Translation is usually marinated pork, but that doesn't tell you the story.
    Al Pastor spit at Atotonilco
    Image
    Al Pastor spit at Huentitlan
    Image
    Pork is marinated, layered on a spit with onions, and roasted as the spit turns. As the outer part browns, the onions are carmelized and the marinated pork is browned.
    close-up of the spit at Atotonilco
    Image
    The outer part is shaved off, put into a tortilla, and covered with fresh onions and cilantro.
    Tacos Al Pastor served with all the trimmings and a glass of Horchata at Huentitlan
    Image
    Tacos Al Pastor at Taqueria Moran
    Image
    I usually add some fresh lime and salt, which goes really nicely with the pork. But not all Al Pastor is created equal, so I sought out some different kinds around Chicago.

    I first tried Al Pastor in Mexico City. I was taken to a place in Colonia Polanco that served it up just right. Of course I didn't know what it was called then, but I remember the spit, and those finely carmelized shavings of roast pork. I can hardly claim to be an expert in Al Pastor; I'm the equivalent of a foreigner who comes to Chicago, and eats a hot dog at some expensive bistro in Lincoln Park and returns to tell about it.

    My friend Mike, who is a lurker here, lived for a few years in Austin, Texas. He's not a great fan of Austin ("Schaumburg of the South"), but does remember a 24-hr Al Pastor place that he frequented.
    Mike the lurker wrote:The trick is that they shave only the edges of the meat off the spit: very thin slices.

    I'd also add that the essential elements of any spit of meat cooked and shaved for hours, including shwarma, rodizio, and gyros, are:
    (1) heat high enough to cause carmelization*, and
    (2) a critical mass of people waiting to eat it, so the meat can be properly cooked for everyone without getting overdone or dried out.
    IMHO most gyros places are serving warmed up meatloaf, and have gotten away from the roots of the spit.

    Some Al Pastor places, recognizing that they will not receive a steady stream of people as the spit get fired up and carmelizes the meat, cut the meat as it is ready and then keep the cooked al pastor meat refrigerated until customers ask for it. Then, they warm the pieces on the grill before serving.

    Then there are places that have dropped the spit altogether, and just fry up a pieces of chopped marinated pork w/onions on the grill. You still get the browning, just in a different way. Browning occurs more evenly, in a fried rather than roasted kind of a way. Results can be similar; when I started this I looked primarily for places with the spit, but then was pleasantly surprised when I ordered it from places without a spit.

    I. places with Al Pastor spits:

    Tortilleria Atotonilco
    5656 S Kedzie
    Chicago
    773-436-4890

    Hacks off large pieces; only some edges are carmelized. No cilantro or onions. Greasy, juicy, and the huge pieces have less browning and less marination. Why don't we just call them carnitas.

    Tacos El Jaliciense
    2859 W Chicago
    Chicago
    773.235.2859

    A pineapple is on the top of the spit. The spit only runs periodically; they keep the meat in a heated container to the side of the spit and add it directly to the tortilla w/o re-frying. Pieces are huge, and definitely not browned. Very greasy, enough grease to soak through a 2-ply tortilla, no fresh onions or cilantro.

    Birriria Huentitlan
    4019 W North
    Chicago
    773-276-0768

    Hugely popular, line out the door, 24 place on weekends. The meat is served fresh from the spit, but not browned to perfection. They do serve it with fresh onions and cilantro. I was disappointed with the lack of browning though; seems more like an assembly line with the people filing in, and they cut the meat early instead of waiting for it to brown.

    Taqueria Puebla
    3625 W North
    Chicago
    773-772-8435

    They have a spit, which was not running while I was there. They run the spit, harvest all of the meat, and save it in the refrigerator. The meat I had was from the 'fridge, fried up before serving. Very nice attention to quality; so good that I really question the whole fresh spit thing anyway.

    II. no spit

    Taqueria Moran
    2226 N California
    Chicago
    773-235-2663

    They have no spit; they don't even have al pastor on the menu, but they've served it to me on several occasions. Meat is chopped into very fine pieces, marinated w/chopped onions, and fried together when ordered. I thought this stuff was great, so great that I've stopped looking for the spit. Overall I really like this taqueria, and they obviously pay closer attention to quality than a lot of places. When I asked them directly why they don't use a spit, she said because it tastes better from the grill. After sampling the results, I tend to agree, but I still have fond memories of that spit in Mexico City, just as Mike the Lurker has fond memories of Austin.

    So is the spit really done for quality, or is it an assembly line, mass production technique done for quantity?

    *Technically meat is not carmelized, it is browned, according to Robert Wolke, "What Einstein told his cook."

    [edited to include picture labels]
    Last edited by Rich4 on October 5th, 2004, 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #2 - October 5th, 2004, 4:37 pm
    Post #2 - October 5th, 2004, 4:37 pm Post #2 - October 5th, 2004, 4:37 pm
    Damm fine shots Rich

    Now that I'm drooling on my keyboard where can I get the tacos pictured in you post?

    Thanks

    John
  • Post #3 - October 5th, 2004, 6:08 pm
    Post #3 - October 5th, 2004, 6:08 pm Post #3 - October 5th, 2004, 6:08 pm
    I went to Atotonilco for al pastor while I was in Chicago. Not very good al pastor. It's cruel to carnitas to call that flavorless meat such. Your pictures, especially the closeup, make them look better than they taste or better than my pic made them look:

    Image

    The al pastor I had there had little browning and looked much more like your second pic. I think a mistake some of these places fall prey to is cutting the slices too thick, a) not allowing the marinade to penetrate the meat, and b) not allowing them to brown adequately after the last slices.

    btw, when it's not truly spit-roasted, I think it's more accurate to call it adovada and am grateful when a taqueria makes this distinction. But basically, I've learned to stay away from al pastor if it's not off a spit. It can still be good, but it will rarely be sublime, and can too often be something not even close to al pastor, more like chunks of pork marinated. I don't know if the spit itself is truly important or just the process that makes then layer the *thin* slices of pork and let it slowly roast with the marinade and pineapple juice or onion water dripping down through the pieces. (Some places, instead of a pineapple on top of the spit, actually put an onion.) I've had plenty of excellent al pastor off the spit, though, and my experience is that it's better on average. Maybe that's not the case in Chicago.

    Some places will, after cutting the meat off the spit, then sautee it and chop it on a griddle, possibly adding caramelized onions and even more marinade.

    That's what my favorite place for al pastor, Poncho's here in Vancouver (metro Portland), does. They layer it in a way I hadn't seen before, but it does a good job of getting more surface area browned. She also uses a full pineapple in the marinade. It's the best I've had anywhere, including Mexico, so far. (Although al pastor isn't usually my first choice when I'm in Mexico and it's the most likely taco-cause of la turista. The second best I've had was actually in Mazatlan on a side street where all the cabbies and hotel workers ate at the many little spots.) I won't waste people's bandwidth by posting pics here, but you can go to this link:

    Poncho's al Pastor in Portland Metro

    Here's a mediocre pic from a place in Mexico City, too. Rather dark, but you can get a sense of the scale and can see the crusty bits on the outside:

    Mexico City al Pastor
  • Post #4 - October 5th, 2004, 7:22 pm
    Post #4 - October 5th, 2004, 7:22 pm Post #4 - October 5th, 2004, 7:22 pm
    extramsg wrote:basically, I've learned to stay away from al pastor if it's not off a spit. It can still be good, but it will rarely be sublime, and can too often be something not even close to al pastor, more like chunks of pork marinated. I've had plenty of excellent al pastor off the spit, though, and my experience is that it's better on average. Maybe that's not the case in Chicago.

    Well, given the options I've tried so far, I don't think the spit is worth it in Chicago. If someone has any ideas of extramsg's "sublime" al pastor off the spit, I'd like to try it. Until then, it will be off the griddle for me at Taqueria Moran.

    While the closeup of the spit at Atotonilco looks good, that's only a small portion of the hack of pork you get in the taco, which is very disappointing. Another strategy would be to stand next to the spit as they cut it and give them directions on cutting off only the carmelized portions for me. But I worry about making a pest of myself, especially as potentially the only non-Mexican there.
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #5 - October 5th, 2004, 8:41 pm
    Post #5 - October 5th, 2004, 8:41 pm Post #5 - October 5th, 2004, 8:41 pm
    I've been jonesing for good Al Pastor out here in the NW burbs for a while now. The places that claim to have it all just griddle marinated pork, which is always too saucy, too bland and missing all that crispy goodness.

    My favorite place has been gone for years now, and I still cry every time I pass the vacant building: Taqueria Morelos at River and Camp MacDonald in NE Mount Prospect. I don't think they used a spit, but it was this fantastic savory, almost jerky-like texture, with just a sprinkling of onions and cilantro. They were always respectful enough not to serve gringo style (lettuce, tomato, cheese) just because we ordered in Ingles.

    What I really miss from there is their green salsa: It was smooth, pale green and slightly creamy in texture. They denied having any avocado in it, but wouldn't tell me anything else. The only thing I've been able to find in recipe books is a lettuce-based sauce that I haven't had the chance to try making.
  • Post #6 - October 5th, 2004, 8:52 pm
    Post #6 - October 5th, 2004, 8:52 pm Post #6 - October 5th, 2004, 8:52 pm
    Joel, you can usually tell lettuce salsa because they have a sweetness to them. They are often creamy in texture, though not as much as ones with pureed avocado, which are much more common.
  • Post #7 - October 6th, 2004, 1:48 pm
    Post #7 - October 6th, 2004, 1:48 pm Post #7 - October 6th, 2004, 1:48 pm
    Taqueria Camelia, on Lawrence just around the corner from the Green Mill, is, like Jalisciense, a neat little place that is al pastor-spit oriented. That is, like an all-night diner with bone-in ham, the pork spit is the centerpiece of the small room.

    Camelia's pastor is very good, based on a handful of visits. The spit is not always in use. I very much like Palmar's (on Irving, accross from Byron's and on Western, near Sicky Rice) and Chorrito's (Clark at Devon) recipes, though no spit is apparent.

    I tried Jalisciense the other day. The spit was fired up, and everything looked great. The layering showed great attention to detail, with onion, but also chiles and tomatoes present. But the spicing and salt (none?) left much to be desired.

    Gyros/Pastor spits might not be the easiest route to consistency, as suggested above. You need turnover, but not so much that there is not time for charring. The problem extends to doner/shewerma, etc. of course. I have had incredibly good shewerma (on amazing nan) at Kebab Corner (Jackson (?) and Halsted in Greektown), but my last few visits featured dried-out, warmed over meat and cold bread.
  • Post #8 - October 7th, 2004, 3:43 pm
    Post #8 - October 7th, 2004, 3:43 pm Post #8 - October 7th, 2004, 3:43 pm
    I'm a little shocked to hear the lack of love for atotonilco. I mean if you just look at the photos of the spit, it looks a lot more marinated and caramelized than huentitan's (marination not to be confused with saucing on the grill). It also definitely is served (or at least was to me) with cilantro and onions.

    Though I will by all means try the other pastor's recommended.
  • Post #9 - October 7th, 2004, 3:57 pm
    Post #9 - October 7th, 2004, 3:57 pm Post #9 - October 7th, 2004, 3:57 pm
    Mine wasn't served with cilantro and onions either. Not sure if they asked, but I doubt it. See below. This pic also shows how thick the meat chunks are -- a huge mistake in al pastor, imo:

    Image
  • Post #10 - October 9th, 2004, 4:48 pm
    Post #10 - October 9th, 2004, 4:48 pm Post #10 - October 9th, 2004, 4:48 pm
    Been lurking for awhile, though I'd finally contribute. Not certain if there's a spit, but Zaca Taco on south Pulaski (technically its on 71st, but everyone gets to it form Pulaski) has some fabulous al pastor tacos. My ex girlfriend and I stumbled onto this place accidentaly. We had driven past it a number of time and there was always a line no matter the time of day. They grill all the meats and the aroma is fabulouts. Highly recommend taking an adventure down there for this little gem.
  • Post #11 - October 9th, 2004, 4:54 pm
    Post #11 - October 9th, 2004, 4:54 pm Post #11 - October 9th, 2004, 4:54 pm
    Had some tacos today at Los Comales (I know, it's a chain) in Niles on Milwaukee.

    2 al pastor and 1 cesina. The cesina was great, grilled thin strips of steak, more tender than I expected. The pastor were very tasty, but not as browned and crunchy as could be. Don't know if they're on a spit or not. Their table red salsa (served in a black plastic comal, the traditional stone mortar of mexico and their namesake) was excellent. Although milder than most taquerias serve, it had good roasty and garlic flavors.

    Tables have a big bin of pickled carrot, jicama, cauliflower and jalapenos, and an ample basket of chips accompanied the tacos, which were $1.40 apiece (somewhat pricy for their basic tacos, but a decent deal for the steak, pastor, and similar wihch usually carry a premium at most places).
  • Post #12 - October 9th, 2004, 5:46 pm
    Post #12 - October 9th, 2004, 5:46 pm Post #12 - October 9th, 2004, 5:46 pm
    Cecina, essentially dried beef not quite at the jerky stage, can be pretty good. It usually has a slightly aged-beef and lime flavor to me. In San Jose, CA, I've seen it hanging at restaurants. I see it fairly often at carnicerias hanging as well. I always wonder if the health department just doesn't know. I wonder how it's made around there.

    (btw, a comal is a Mexican griddle, a molcajete is a Mexican mortar.)
  • Post #13 - October 9th, 2004, 6:36 pm
    Post #13 - October 9th, 2004, 6:36 pm Post #13 - October 9th, 2004, 6:36 pm
    extramsg wrote:Cecina, essentially dried beef not quite at the jerky stage, can be pretty good.

    (btw, a comal is a Mexican griddle, a molcajete is a Mexican mortar.)


    D'oh! -- I'll have to do 20 pages of Bayless cookbook as penance.
    I got fooled by all the mortar-shaped salsa bowls into making a stupid conclusion when I actually knew better.

    The Cesina (as they listed it) didn't have a dried texture, and was listed as marinated steak in the menu.

    And if you wonder how dried beef passes health inspection, what about brains? In these days of CJD/Mad Cow, who can serve that without fear of lawsuits?
  • Post #14 - October 9th, 2004, 6:51 pm
    Post #14 - October 9th, 2004, 6:51 pm Post #14 - October 9th, 2004, 6:51 pm
    Well, considering that the best guess is that it takes like 30 years for the onset of mad cow, I don't think there are too many worries about legal action at some taco stand. One of the things that always worries me about brains, etc, at taco stands, too, is that I wonder if in the pursuit of cheaper beef they buy older cows. (Since cows under 30 months have little chance of having mad cow and most cows are slaughtered under 20 months unless you're eating at some fast food joint that buys old dairy cows.) You can make cecina and carne seca, btw, in your oven. I think Kennedy and Bayless both have recipes. I know a person who lives in the SW and makes it on their roof. That's a little too authentic for me, though.
  • Post #15 - October 9th, 2004, 7:45 pm
    Post #15 - October 9th, 2004, 7:45 pm Post #15 - October 9th, 2004, 7:45 pm
    zim wrote:I'm a little shocked to hear the lack of love for atotonilco.


    I agree. I have really grown to like the tacos al pastor there, especially at the 26th St. location.

    It's important to remember that Atotonilco serves al pastor as it is normally served in Jalisco, with larger slices, more marinade and usually the lack of pineaple (or onion, for that matter.) They are not the sublime tacos al pastor one finds in D.F., Morelos or Puebla, served with the tiny, crusty, smoky bits of meat with the dab of extra marinade and the little pineaple piece infused with pork juices tossed on top. Even so, it's as close as I've found to the real thing. I do, however, always ask for onions, cilantro and a plate of limes. They usually don't serve them without asking, in my experience.
  • Post #16 - October 11th, 2004, 9:11 pm
    Post #16 - October 11th, 2004, 9:11 pm Post #16 - October 11th, 2004, 9:11 pm
    I've been lurking for a while, but this topic made me register and post...

    Rich4, thanks for doing the legwork and posting the great pics of tacos al pastor. I'm drooling... It's been 3 years since I've been to Mexico City and I'm constantly CRAVING these tacos. I'm definitely going to check these places out, although I'll try to keep my expectations on the lower side.

    Did you happen to notice what time of day is best to go? I'm wondering if the meat is fresher on Friday and Saturday nights?
  • Post #17 - October 11th, 2004, 9:38 pm
    Post #17 - October 11th, 2004, 9:38 pm Post #17 - October 11th, 2004, 9:38 pm
    BumbleBee wrote:I'm definitely going to check these places out, although I'll try to keep my expectations on the lower side.

    Did you happen to notice what time of day is best to go? I'm wondering if the meat is fresher on Friday and Saturday nights?

    Truth is I haven't been to the spit places enough times to note when it is and it is not running. That being said, Saturday is usually a good bet to see any spit in action as that's when you will have enough people ordering it that it makes sense to keep it running. I think you'll have better luck at Atotonilco and Huentitlan who have a large following.

    However, if you like your marinated pork and onions nicely carmelized and only carmelized and crispy like I do, then you'll have an issue as to how the pork is shaved, or hacked, off the spit. My next attempt at Atotonilco I'll order it cut extra thin and only the outer portions of the meat that have been cooked. I'm not sure if they'll do it this way, or if they'll chase me out of the South Side with the carving knife, but it's worth a try to ask. Also tell 'em you want cilantro and onions. I think the specialized order has a chance at working at Atotonilco as it's more of a carve to order place than Huentitlan, which is more assembly line style where the pork you order has already been cut.

    For a great fix anytime that is not on the spit, I recommend Taqueria Moran. No spit, but small pieces and very nice carmelization.

    Let us know how it goes.
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #18 - October 14th, 2004, 7:28 am
    Post #18 - October 14th, 2004, 7:28 am Post #18 - October 14th, 2004, 7:28 am
    zim wrote:I'm a little shocked to hear the lack of love for atotonilco.

    Zim,

    No lack of love for Atotonilco from me, I had a couple of Al Pastor tacos at the 26th St. location yesterday and thought them fantastic, maybe the best I have ever had. Yes they were slightly chunky, in strips as Extramsg described, but, to me, this was not a downside in the least.

    Nice bits of brown crunchy caramelizing, excellent flavor, served on two-ply slightly greasy griddled corn tortillas. I love it when the tortillas are griddled hot with a little oil, it gives them a slight chewyness, density, weight, however you wish to characterize it, that holds up well to the filling.

    I took a few pictures, but, frankly, Rich4's turned out better than mine, so, since the thread is about tacos, I'll post a picture of the barbacoa taco I had the other day at La Pasadita, East side of Ashland only for me.
    Image

    I didn't know they took their pie so seriously in Little Village, a clinic just for pie, interesting. I wonder if MAG or Cathy2 are consultants. :)

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Taquerias Atotonilco
    3916 W 26th St.
    Chicago, IL
    773-762-3380

    La Pasadita Restaurant
    (773) 278-0384
    1141 N Ashland Ave
    Chicago, IL 60622
  • Post #19 - October 18th, 2004, 1:02 pm
    Post #19 - October 18th, 2004, 1:02 pm Post #19 - October 18th, 2004, 1:02 pm
    Yesterday I ventured up to Taqueria Moran to try the tacos al pastor. They were good tacos, but just not what I was looking for. It's the marinade. And the fried meat. It seems to me that "al pastor" means something entirely different in Chicago than in Mexico City, because the places I've tried here prepare it very similarly.

    I liked Moran, though. The horchata is very good-- generous cinammon flavor, more milk than water. Very good tortillas, also, and friendly service. I'd go there again to try something else.

    Seriously considering a long weekend in Mexico...
  • Post #20 - October 30th, 2004, 2:42 pm
    Post #20 - October 30th, 2004, 2:42 pm Post #20 - October 30th, 2004, 2:42 pm
    Thanks for mentioning Los Comales.We went there today.I had three tacos;chorizo,chicken and al pastor.With beans,rice and salad.I tried the jalapeno,carrots and jicama.Very tasty.Plus a little of the green sauce on the side.Sorry,Cathy2,they only had Pepsi.They did ask if we wanted cilantro and onion.Some guy kept watching me eat with some amazement that I ate the jalapenos and green sauce without breaking a sweat or guzzling soda.Nice to know I'm a source of entertainment.The tacos look small but are filling.I liked the al pastor,I did seem to get mostly the crispy bits.
  • Post #21 - November 21st, 2004, 11:24 pm
    Post #21 - November 21st, 2004, 11:24 pm Post #21 - November 21st, 2004, 11:24 pm
    I'm no expert on Al Pastor,(or much of anything, really), but there's this place attached to the Cermak Produce(Archer & Damen) called Apache Grill that has a spit. I went in there to buy some tamales(nice and spicy), and they gave me a sample of Al Pastor. I don't remember it being particularly browned, but it was very tender, juicy and flavorful. I think it was more tasty than Tio Luis', which I like a lot.
    The Apache Grill is interesting :? ; they sell coffee and espresso drinks(not what I'd go there for), pizza slices, soft serve ice cream, it's attached to a Mexican grocery, and has good tamales.

    "An expert is one who chooses to be ignorant on all but one topic"
    -Robert Anton Wilson, www.rawilson.com
  • Post #22 - November 22nd, 2004, 7:15 am
    Post #22 - November 22nd, 2004, 7:15 am Post #22 - November 22nd, 2004, 7:15 am
    phredbull wrote:I'm no expert on Al Pastor,(or much of anything, really), but there's this place attached to the Cermak Produce(Archer & Damen) called Apache Grill that has a spit. I went in there to buy some tamales(nice and spicy), and they gave me a sample of Al Pastor. I don't remember it being particularly browned, but it was very tender, juicy and flavorful. I think it was more tasty than Tio Luis', which I like a lot.
    The Apache Grill is interesting :? ; they sell coffee and espresso drinks(not what I'd go there for), pizza slices, soft serve ice cream, it's attached to a Mexican grocery, and has good tamales.

    "An expert is one who chooses to be ignorant on all but one topic"
    -Robert Anton Wilson, www.rawilson.com


    Apache Grill is one of those places that has definately caught my eye--mostly on the semi de rigeur post Chinatown trip to Huck Finn. Thanks for confirming that it is as interesting as I suspected. Of course I still have to try...

    Rob
  • Post #23 - November 22nd, 2004, 8:34 am
    Post #23 - November 22nd, 2004, 8:34 am Post #23 - November 22nd, 2004, 8:34 am
    The always overlooked Taqueria Leon at the corner of Blackhawk and Ashland serves a great al pastor(sometimes with pineapple). Their carne asada tacos and salsa verde are also far superior to those at La Pasadita.
  • Post #24 - November 22nd, 2004, 9:09 am
    Post #24 - November 22nd, 2004, 9:09 am Post #24 - November 22nd, 2004, 9:09 am
    Vital Information wrote:Apache Grill is one of those places that has definately caught my eye--mostly on the semi de rigeur post Chinatown trip to Huck Finn. Thanks for confirming that it is as interesting as I suspected. Of course I still have to try...


    Quoting myself from Chowhound 02.08.03, "Suffice it to say that there are some really weird pizza slices out there. Like, for instance, the 1lb. (estimate) thin crusted sausage slice at Apachee Grill, at Damen/Archer."

    The two times that I tried the pizza were quite memorable. I wonder if it is still the same. And, yes, it is a strange place, to say the least.

    Erik M.
  • Post #25 - November 22nd, 2004, 9:20 am
    Post #25 - November 22nd, 2004, 9:20 am Post #25 - November 22nd, 2004, 9:20 am
    G Wiv wrote:I didn't know they took their pie so seriously in Little Village


    Pie and, assuming there's a misprint on the signage for 'manons' (as shown here), bonbons as well.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #26 - December 1st, 2004, 7:07 pm
    Post #26 - December 1st, 2004, 7:07 pm Post #26 - December 1st, 2004, 7:07 pm
    Rich4 wrote:
    Taqueria Moran
    2226 N California
    Chicago
    773-235-2663

    They have no spit; they don't even have al pastor on the menu, but they've served it to me on several occasions. Meat is chopped into very fine pieces, marinated w/chopped onions, and fried together when ordered. I thought this stuff was great, so great that I've stopped looking for the spit. Overall I really like this taqueria, and they obviously pay closer attention to quality than a lot of places. When I asked them directly why they don't use a spit, she said because it tastes better from the grill.



    Rich, on the matter of Taqueria Moran's al pastor, I will simply say that I cannot agree. I am, admittedly, no expert on the form, either, but I simply cannot recommend their preparation. On the two visits to Moran in which I sampled this item, I was left thinking it more like Cinammon Toast Crunch than anything else.

    From what I have been able to gather, the traditional preparation of al pastor involves the creation of an adobo, or paste, and the subsequent marination of the layered/skewered pork meat in that paste. While there are, of course, "trade secrets," vinegar, onion, and toasted/ground chile and cumin make the most frequent appearances in the recipes that I have viewed. Based on the look that the waitress gave me, both of the times that I requested it, I cannot believe that there is any "marination" of the pork meat that takes place. At Moran, I suspect that the pork meat is liberally seasoned on the flat-top with a healthy shake of some seasoning powder. So, subsequently, these finely ground spices--when in such close contact with this kind of heat--undergo a transformation which leaves them bitter and flat. Well, to my palate, at least. [And even if these spices were incorporated in the form of a paste, the issue of them coming in contact with such harsh heat remains.] That aside, the meat itself is altogether different in texture and cut from traditional rotisserie al pastor.


    Taqueria Moran's taco al pastor

    I noticed that Arturo's Tacos is missing from your list. While I will not claim that Arturo's al pastor--which is prepared on the vertical rotisserie--is a paragon of the form, I do think that it is very good. And, at any rate, if ersatz flat-top creations are that much to your liking, I would suggest that you at least try Arturo's lomo. This is seasoned and griddled beef loin which can be taken in a taco, a torta, or a burrito.


    Arturo's taco de lomo

    While there is not a whole lot else that sets Arturo's apart from the pack, I'd be curious to know if you, or anyone else, can tell me of another place that has both caldo de tortuga (turtle soup) and caldo de rana (frog soup)!

    Arturo's Taco's
    2001 N. Western, Chicago
    773.772.4944

    Regards,
    Erik M.
  • Post #27 - December 13th, 2004, 12:16 pm
    Post #27 - December 13th, 2004, 12:16 pm Post #27 - December 13th, 2004, 12:16 pm
    Erik M. wrote:On the two visits to Moran in which I sampled this item, I was left thinking it more like Cinammon Toast Crunch than anything else...I cannot believe that there is any "marination" of the pork meat that takes place.

    Erik, I must say that taco from your post does not look like one of Moran's. The meat (is that really pork?) does not look marinated at all, and it is in a rather large pieces rather than finely diced, marinated with onions (see my earlier pic). As extramsg pointed out, Moran actually refers to this as Adovada as there is no spit at all.

    Erik M. wrote:I noticed that Arturo's Tacos is missing from your list.

    I did try Arturo's, but didn't like it. The pork was not carmelized and was in very large pieces.

    It's not that I'm hooked on Moran, I'm still looking for someone, anyone, who makes this well done (finely chopped marinated pork w/onions, served with fresh onions, cilantro, lime, salt in a fresh tortilla). It would be nice if it were fresh off the spit, but not necessary. And I'm willing to wait a while longer by the griddle.

    P.S. Sorry for the delay in responding...been busy with other stuff
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #28 - December 13th, 2004, 6:17 pm
    Post #28 - December 13th, 2004, 6:17 pm Post #28 - December 13th, 2004, 6:17 pm
    Rich4, I had tacos al pastor for breakfast at Arturo's on Sunday and the meat was sliced thinly, crisp, and nicely caramelized (Maillardized???). They did not have the depth of flavor I could revere, but they got me about half way there. And the jugo de naranja was pretty good, given this year's orange crop.
  • Post #29 - December 13th, 2004, 6:40 pm
    Post #29 - December 13th, 2004, 6:40 pm Post #29 - December 13th, 2004, 6:40 pm
    Rich4 wrote:Erik, I must say that taco from your post does not look like one of Moran's.


    I can assure you that it is.

    Rich4 wrote:As extramsg pointed out, Moran actually refers to this as Adovada as there is no spit at all.


    I am looking at their takeaway menu, and I see a taco filling listed as adobado. Surely, you must mean the same.

    Rich4 wrote:I did try Arturo's, but didn't like it.


    From your O.P., I didn't get the impression that your feelings about the various places--one way or another--had anything to do with your listing of said places. My intention was to simply point out an omission.

    Rich4 wrote:The pork was not carmelized and was in very large pieces.


    I am sorry to hear that. When it comes to spit-fired al pastor in Chicago, I have come to accept tremendous variability. Spit maintenance and turnover are both wildly swinging variables.

    As I stated before, I think that you might enjoy the lomo at Arturo's.

    Happy Eating, Rich4.

    Regards,
    Erik M.
  • Post #30 - September 16th, 2005, 12:24 pm
    Post #30 - September 16th, 2005, 12:24 pm Post #30 - September 16th, 2005, 12:24 pm
    Not only eating but making Tacos al Pastor (If anybody is interested in the recipe and technique to make them in the oven).

    I was born and raised in Mexico City; therefore the first thing I miss when I'm away is Tacos al Pastor.

    I will try these places and post my comments. TOday I will hit Arturo's.

    And beleive me Tacos al Pastor MUST BE COOKED IN THE SPIT.

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