Globeville is an area of Denver that may not be known to all by name, though many of us pass it by with some regularity. It is bordered by the South Platte River, Inca St and 52nd. It is the neighborhood in which sits the infamous mousetrap ramp system of interstates 25 and 70. It is also a neighborhood with a rich immigrant history, formerly Eastern European and now primarily of Latino roots. In my little private taco-centric world, this means only one thing: there's got to be good tacos there.
This weekend, my wife and I took a trip out to Globeville to see for ourselves. We cruised the tree-lined streets and felt suddenly as if we had left the city, particularly in the small section of Globeville south of I-70. With the physical boundaries of the train tracks on the southern end and the walls of I-25 on the west, it has the peaceful feel of a small town, full of quaint historic turn-of-the-(last)-century homes that for the most part looked little changed from their original construction. The area around the Garden Place Academy public school and the Saint Joseph Polish Catholic Church is particularly picturesque, evoking images of what how I imagine Denver generations ago (minus this mural on the left and the occasional stray appliance in the front yard).
Then, turning back on to 45th Ave, we found it. A grey, newly painted building called Tacos El Gordo. At first seemed a little intimidating, with cages over the windows and a thick, red steel door; but that feeling quickly began to fade, because on the side of the wall was crudely painted the word "pastor".
This word "pastor" has a magical sound to it. When sung, it is nothing less than my siren song, and written in red on this restaurant wall, it lured me out of my car to get a better idea of what this place might have to offer. Pastor itself does not always mean good things in the US of A. For my discerning taco-palette and my pastor-taco-hunt requirements, real pastor should come from whole pork loins roasting on a spit, and not pre-chopped and marinating in the fridge or something. The latter is often the case in the US, and what results is soggy, overcooked, bland and at times not worth eating. So, when my wife pointed out the sign with the very image of a pastor spit emblazoned upon it, there was really no holding me back.
Good eye, wife!
Upon entering, to my delight, I found that this sign was not placed outside to cruelly lure pastor-spit seekers like myself in only to offer up a much lesser version. Sure enough, the fat man, whoever he is, adorned the center of his open kitchen with a spit of pastor. Bless him. And although it was small, I have learned in my pastor-wisdom-filled-years that big and bountiful does not always yield the best pastor.
In an earlier post, I wrote that pastor without pineapple was like a mariachi without his sombrero, or something along those lines. Of course, every time I make a sweeping statement like that, there follows the inevitable exceptions (all of which my wife gladly catalogs and freely point outs when she sees fit). This taco al pastor was served without the requisite pineapple, but I am happy to say that I hardly missed it. Don't get me wrong, I did miss it, but this was an excellent marinade and it was cooked to near perfection: thinly sliced, charred, not entirely over-cooked (despite the US health department double-cook rule). It was, in the end, a fine taco al pastor.
The three table salsas were also excellent. The smoky red salsa was bold and spicy. In fact all three packed solid heat, definitely made for the Mexican palette, not one dumbed down for the taco tourist.
Tacos El Gordo is well worth the drive up into Globeville. Globeville itself is worth the drive to Globeville. I spotted another place I hope to return to soon, as well as some neighborhood bars that would certainly be nothing less than interesting. I also didn't get a chance to sample anything else from El Gordo, but when a complicated recipe like pastor turns out this good, things like asada, lengua and the other usual suspects should be relatively easy. If not, the salsas themselves could make an average taco shine.
Tacos El Gordo is a mere 5 months old as of May 2010 and has 99 cent tacos on Mondays and Tuesdays. Celebrate its opening at 201 E. 45th Ave. in lovely Globeville, Denver, CO. Let's hope it stays open for years to come.