As I'm writing this, it's about 8:15am in Mexico City on Thursday morning. I have been here since Monday at noon. It has been a non-stop whirlwind of a trip with evenings that stretch until 3:30 in the morning and 7:30am wake-up calls. It's been crazy. It's been fun. It's been a quite a bit more than I imagined.
Tacos al Pastor
Since I live in Baltimore, truly authentic Mexican food I'm discovering is kinda hard to come by. There are some decent places that offer tacos with chicken, beef or carnitas but I've never found a place that makes tacos as pastor and now I know why.
For the uninitiated, Tacos al Pastor is a taco (soft, flour tortilla only) made with pork that has been sliced and stacked on a rotating spike that cooks by radiant heat.
Que??? you might ask - basically what I'm saying is that the meat is cooked in the same fashion that you find gyros at greek places.
We're at another sidewalk vendor called "El Vip Sito" - what does that mean? Not sure, but it's Ana's favorite place for Tacos al Pastor and it rocks the house. It's kind of odd. It's one of those holes in the wall that's, literally, a "hole in the wall". It's located in front of a very large automotive service place. And not one of those slick joints, this place is basically a painted corrugated metal warehouse size of a building. It's night and it looks kinda sketchy, but it's packed and jamming.
I'll venture to say that, maybe, sixteen people can sit at the "bar" or at a small table. You walk up and there's a nearly equivalent amount of workers ready and eager to take your order. Order a taco and the guy at the gyro machine cranks up the heat and gets things rolling.
A few slices of his knife later and the taco al pastor is sitting on that ubiquitous plastic plate ready for you to devour. There's a couple cauldrons of freshly made pico de gallo, salsa rojo and guacamole, along with a large pan of cut limes.
I'm an amateur so I let Ana decide the best way to prepare my taco. A little bit of guacamole and pico de gallo, and a big squeeze of the lime and it's time to grind. Just fold up the sides of the taco and give it a bite. The pork is amazing, succulent, juicy and tasty. The fresh pico and guacamole with lime are the perfect accompaniment. I want to eat two more, but she won't let me.
She's got more coming for El Papicito...
The next course arrives and it's called gringa, which is the typical term to describe Americans. Perhaps accompanied with the words: "Chinga su madre, su pinche gringo pendejo! But I don't know and I don't know why it's called gringa though I suspect it's because of it's very large "Super Size It" kind of size - I think they should have called it gorda.
It's kind of the same, but in large amounts with onions and cilantro on a bigger tortilla.
Maybe I'm just kinda weird, but I get off on seeing kitchens and how people do their thing. Happily, El Vip Sito doesn't disappoint. Just about everything is done in the open. The gyro machine doo-hickey is outside on the sidewalk along with a blazing hot plancha. Behind the bar they've got an assortment of goodies, most of which I haven't a clue as to what they are. To our right is the cooking line. Basically two guys working two planchas with to large, wooden cutting boards.
These guys make everything else, including the boat-type tacos we're about to eat. Can't remember the name off-hand but these are little crispy corn tortillas that have been fried and slightly curled on the sides to hold the filling. Using the plancha, they cook the beef and then coat it in a very healty slathering of cheese, melting and embracing the sliced beef.
When finished, it comes off the plancha in a large log that the cook cuts into four portions and places on top of the tortilla and you can add whatever toppings you desire.
So, how was it? Beautiful. The tacos al pastor were better than I would have imagined. The meat was perfect, delicate and sliced to just the right thickness to make biting easy. Sliced by hand these guys showed tremendous skill. Any thicker and it would be too chewy and difficult to bite. The gringa was a lot more of the same hand-sliced pork. Tremendous. But I really should have stopped there. The last round put me over the edge. It was good. The beef was tender and delicious. From what I could gather, the meat used was from the ribeye - always a welcome meat on my table. However, it was a bit overpowered by the cheese - just a mountain of cheese, which, while very tasty would sometimes be "too much," forcing me to chew-chew-chew.
Alright, that's enough talk, time to head out.
Avenida Universidad, esquina Torres Adalid