Mexico City soul food, part one

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If there is such thing as a Mexico City municipal dish, it would have to be tacos al pastor. A variation on Middle Eastern shawarma, it is made from pork (don’t tell Allah), marinated with various spices, including a heavy dose of annato, which gives it a shrill orange color. The slices of pork are mounted atop each other to form a huge orb, and impaled on a metal stick, which revolves around a vertical charcoal grill. The fire from the grill is turned up as orders are placed, and the taquero slices from the most fully cooked part to fashion the taco, which is adorned with cilantro, onion and a slice of pineapple.

Although this version of events is not universally accepted, supposedly the taco al pastor is the invention of a woman named Concepción Cervantes, who discovered shawarma on a trip to Lebanon, and debuted her version at a taco stand called El Tizoncito in 1966. That taco stand – now a well-appointed little restaurant – is still on the same street corner of Tamaulpas and Campeche in the fashionable Condesa neighborhood. (There are twenty franchises of El Tizoncito in Mexico City and around the country.)

My favorite tacos al pastor are located not at El Tizoncito but at Tacos Álvaro O., on calle Álvaro Obregón, nearly at the corner of Tonalá, in the Colonia Roma. The ones pictured are at Tacos Frontera, further down Calle Álvaro Obregón.

7 thoughts on “Mexico City soul food, part one

  1. Cynthia - April 17, 2008

    David, great site! I’m visiting for the first time today via Grande Enchilada. And I had to comment on this post – to proclaim my love for the scrumptious Pastor and my nostalgia for El Tizoncito, a place that brings fond romantic memories of a former galán from La Condesa.

    Looking forward to your book.

  2. Karina Cervantes Magaña - February 21, 2009

    Tacos al pastor from a real taco vendor! I envy you. I have to make them as best I can myself. Your readers might be interested in knowing that once they leave Mexico, they can get the products to make their favorite dishes at Mexicoetal.com.
    It was a life saver to me when I went on assignment in Greece. I had a care package shipped to my hotel room before my arrival.

  3. Ana - April 15, 2009

    I had one date with a veterinarian from Col. Roma. We ate at El Tinzoncito because he said it was the best taco place in the city. Other than the tacos, we didn’t have much in common. I usually ate my al pastor at a place in Tlalnepantla run by a man named Gil. He and I developed a friendly banter and I continued to trek north for tacos even after my “novio” and I split up. Gil made the best alambre I’ve eaten, and he allowed my pup, Chocolatte, to come in and eat tacos, too.I miss my tacos. Here in California, we don’t have the proper blend of seasonings for that authentic Mexico City flavor. No street dirt, no pesera exhaust, no lead! For tacos suaderos, one of the vendors at the Tacubaya metro on Observatorio made the best.

  4. Mark - November 10, 2009

    Looks Good. Tacos Copacobana is one of my favorites while in DF, but Denver is starting to make some great pastor so we don’t miss it too badly now.

  5. Sarah - April 2, 2011

    For the best tacos al pastor, I would recommend El Don Guerro, a stand on the Anzures/Polanco border. Amazing!

  6. Mary Margaret McClure - July 20, 2011

    Going to Mexico City next week for the first time in 40m years. Can’t wait to try tacos al pastor!

  7. Ricardo Carcamo - February 24, 2012

    While I don’t have anything against “El Tizoncito”, their claim of inventing Tacos al Pastor is ludicrous, ridiculous, everybody knows that tacos al pastor were invented by the Lebanese immigrants in the 30’s, they also used to claim that they invented the “trompo” heater, and that is also crazy, considering you can see them in the middle east not really a mexican invention, and while I do love doner kebab, I actually like Tacos al Pastor better (pineapple and pork), except for a little restaurant in Selshuk Turkey, just in the corner of the main ave. and the street that leads to the Castle (near the aqueduct) the guy who runs it is the master, I still consider going to Turkey just because of his cooking.

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