Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tacos al pastor

I have not been a big fan of Mexican food – that is to say, the kind of Mexican food I grew up eating in Midwestern restaurants – the gringo-friendly (i.e. bland) platter of refried beans, rice, meat, cheese and sauce in combination with some incarnation of a flour tortilla. But the strawberry margaritas made it OK.

Then we went to Mexico for our friends' wedding and discovered tacos al pastor. What a revelation! We first had the tacos on the street and we were trying to figure out what that white thing was on top of the spit. Lard? No, pineapple! Plus a couple of onions.
Marinated meat is stacked on a spit that rotates in front of a flame, just like Middle Eastern shwarma, its inspiration. Except this is pork, not lamb. As tacos are ordered, the server shaves off the crispy grilled bits and some pineapple, too. Put it on a warm tortilla with onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime and it's heavenly.

To our delight, the same taco guys were at our friends' wedding! All their favorite street vendors catered the dinner, from the barbecued chicken lady to the pastry vendors and churro-makers, right down to the guy from the beach with the wheelbarrow full of candy.

Here's the guys from Tacos Ivan at the wedding. They did a booming business and probably disappointed a lot of folks looking for them on the street.
Back in Denver, I didn't think about tacos al pastor for a while (our own wedding plans consumed my thoughts), but then I had some good ones at the newly opened Pica's in Boulder and also stumbled across a blog somewhat devoted to local tacos al pastor: Denver on a Spit.

Last week, the Sergeant and I went to check out the (so far) top-ranked tacos, at El Taco Veloz, 5145 Federal Boulevard. It's on the west side of the street, right outside Regis University.
We went in the middle of the afternoon, so there weren't many people there. But the counter guy was quite friendly and the service speedy.
As I learned from reading Denver on a Spit, health code apparently requires that any meat shaved off the donkey leg (as one friend calls it) be re-grilled, which does change the flavor from what you get in Mexico.

Still, what I had was mighty tasty, along with a big glass of cantaloupe juice.
If only it weren't so far away! I am now trying to find good south-side tacos. I think I'll meander over to Tacos Y Salsas at 910 South Federal and give that a try today.


  1. Tacos y Salsas is mighty good. Los Carboncitos does a fine taco or huarache al pastor as well.

  2. Where in Mexico was your friend's wedding. I am trying to talk Hubby into s[ending a month in Mexico this winter.

  3. Thanks, Lisa! I'll check it out.

    Peggy, it was in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta. Very nice little beach town with a lot of ex-pats. It's very laid-back and not highly developed like the big resorts, but still accessible for gringos who want to get a feel for Mexican life. It would be a good place to spend a month. Check out

  4. Oh we live in little mexico lol. Not really but it's like that, especially where I work. The whole street is one Mexican restuarant after another. But my favorite is a big Mexican grocery store where they have the pastor on a spit like that. Everything in there is like heaven to your taste buds!!

  5. I'm going nuts reading about tacos. Haven't made them like this in quite a while, but still remember the street tacos I had in Puerta Vallarta last year. So good!