Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City
Taco's al pastor translates to marinated pork and can be found on almost every Mexican restaurant in the entire city's menu. However there are only a small percentage of spots that do the Mexico City specialty the real way. I fell in love with real tacos al pastor in Cancun of all places when I was on spring break back in 2000. Tacos al pastor get their nickname "Mexican gyros" due to the proper preparation of these special Mexican treats and the fact that they may have been created after shawarma by Lebanese immigrants who came to Mexico. The restaurants that do it right start by marinating pork and layering it on a spit with onions in between every few layers and a pineapple on top that drips down as the spit turns creating amazing crispy pieces of flavorful pork that melt on your tongue. The authentic taco al pastor is topped with fresh onions and cilantro and maybe a lime and some salsa roja. The problem is unless your at a taqueria that specializes in tacos al pastor its not worth ordering. Oh but when it is their specialty and you can see a spit roasting behind the counter than odds are its the real deal.
a real al pastor spit
For Chicagoans even though there are a bunch of spots that specialize in al pastor they can still be hard to find since there are 100's of 1,000's of Mexican taquerias. I for one am always on the prowl for more so check back here for reviews of the stands that succeed in pork from a spit. Ever since I ate those shaved tacos in Cancun I have been on the lookout for the authentic spots with the best representation of this popular Mexican taco and I just recently found one of my new favorites. The Midway airport neighborhoods are rich in ethnic cuisine with a selection of Mexican being everywhere. One of the best spots to eat in the land of Southwest airlines is taqueria el pastor.
on 63rd in Gage Park
The perfect taco al pastor start with the meat. The meat should be caramelized, flavorful and finely shaved and in pieces and not one large strip and topped with fresh onion and cilantro. Check, check, check and check when it comes to taqueria el pastor. Another big key to having great al pastor is a hot flame so that the pork gets crispy and a steady, not busy, but frequent visitors every 10 minutes or so. This ensures that the meat will be perfectly crisped and not cut too early. Many places have just started to cut the meat and store it in a container and crisp it up on the griddle when somebody orders them. I didn't experience any of these problems at this wonderful taqueria. Its owned by a man who takes his al pastor seriously and its the star of the show. Its why people choose to eat their lunch at this specific spot instead of one of the 100's of others. One last important thing to mention is that tacos al pastor places much like BBQ can have off days but when you hit them on an "on" day there are few things more satisfying for a quick cheap lunch that's full of flavor.
tacos al pastor
Taqueria El Pastor
4418 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629