You may recall that recently I was asked by fellow Denver food blogger, Denveater, to contribute to a post about signs that a restaurant is going to be good. It was actually a fun collaboration, and in the spirit of that theme, visiting Acapulco Tacos clued me into yet another sign: reluctance to give change for large bills.
In Mexico I find it equal parts frustrating and amusing that many taco stands, market stalls, taxi cabs and even some restaurants would rather not do business with you than have to make change for a large bill. And I'm not talking about paying for a sip of coke and one rib with a hundred, no, almost anything that would require change with something other than coins seems to really set people off.
If you do happen to have some semi-large peso bills in your pocket and hope for change after eating your tacos, you will inevitably be asked if you have anything smaller. If you do, you get the classic, "You-asshole-you-should've-known-better" look. If not, what inevitably follows is a series of exasperated gasps, eye rolling and then the hilarious and mandatory process of your taquero going vendor to vendor to collect small pieces of change all the while taking his sweet time to exaggerate the difficulty of the task. By far the most entertaining outcome is when your taquero asks for change, sighs when you say you don't have any, checks to see if anyone is looking and then slides you some change over the counter discretely. This is the "Here's-your-change-but-don't-let-anyone-know-I-did-this" look. Asshole.
Although this phenomenon is not unique to Mexico (I have had similar experiences in the Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, and on and on), I haven't come across much change resistance in the US. That is why when I saw this sign at Acapulco Tacos y Pupusas last week--and knowing nothing else about the place-- I got a good feeling.
Hard to read, but it clearly states, "Absolutely No Change."
To the unaccustomed American customer, who this is clearly intended for, it may be interpreted that this restaurant does not want you to empty $1.75 worth of nickels and pennies on the counter to pay for your taco. Quite the contrary, that would potentially be quite welcome (note to self: interesting social experiment), because what this message intends to convey is that the powers that be at Acapulco will not give you change for your tacos if you pay with a fifty. Maybe even a twenty. Asshole.
So that, in the nature of that Denveater post, is a good sign. Literally. The second good sign of this taqueria was much more obvious and straightforward once I got inside. It was this:
Not the "Be Nice or Leave" sign, although that is a good sign. Look lower. That's right. At Acapulco Tacos y Pupusas they have a spit of pastor. With a pineapple on top. Incredible, and the first requirement for my tacos al pastor quest. Obviously, I ordered tacos al pastor. And also a pupusa. There really aren't too many other options, and there don't need to be. Limited options. That is another good sign.
The taco spit, I admit, looked a little sad and neglected. But I have learned to not judge a pastor spit by the number of stacked and marinated pork loins, so to speak. Also, we're not in Mexico City. Taco al pastor fiends in Denver can't be choosers, as the saying goes.
I was very happy and drooling a little when my order was up. I was still a little skeptical because the pineapple looked like a re-heated scrambled egg, but it was from a fresh (OK, at least not canned) pineapple, which is big bonus in this former Mexican border territory. Other than the wilted pineapple, it was actually a fine, fine looking taco. (And yes, I mean fine like a fine woman or a fine wine.)
It was beautiful really. And the taste was very good. It was cooked well, too, with quite a lot of char, though some pieces were quite thick. The pineapple was charred too. It was an excellent taco al pastor.
Also very good was the pupusa. The pupusa is stuffed fried masa-dough native to El Salvador which is somewhat similar to the Mexican gordita. It typically comes with a sweet, runny tomato-based red salsa and a side of a slaw-style salad. Stuffings here included beans, cheese, loroco (a vine-type plant) and chicharron. Of course I went with the chicharron, and while my wife did enjoy her bean and cheese pupusa, she sorely coveted mine. The pupusa moral of the story here is, of course, you can never go wrong choosing chicharron.
Acapulco Tacos y Pupusas serves authentic and delicious Mexican and Salvadorian specialties. It has very limited indoor seating (this is likely another good sign), but if you can elbow your way up to the counter bar, you may start to feel like you are in a market stall somewhere very far from East Colfax. If not, there is plenty of outdoor seating facing the corner of Colfax and Yosemite, making it one of the more interesting people-watching patios of any Denver restaurant.