Monday, October 17, 2011

Dispatch From Mexico City: A Taco al Pastor Plea

In my frequent trips to Mexico City it should come as no surprise that I always stop somewhere for tacos al pastor. In contrast to Denver (and the rest of the US), in Mexico's Federal District there are towering spits of marinated pork properly outfitted with pineapple very literally everywhere; and while some are better than others, for the most part one really can't go wrong. 

In fact a few minutes ago I just polished off the last of several satisfying tacos--this time from Mexico's largest taco al pastor chain restaurant, El Tizoncito. I was going to write about some more out-of-the-way places that we oft visit down here, but I figured there wasn't much point. My wife's family lives way South in Mexico City and even for those of you that will travel to the DF, it is unlikely you would want to detour down to those parts just for tacos that you could get just as good just about anywhere else.

El Tizoncito, despite being the Wack Arnold's of pastor for its omnipresence in this city, serves a good taco al pastor that in Denver would be at the top of my pastor list every year without question.

That brings me to my idea. El Tizoncito, who makes the bold claim of "inventing" tacos al pastor when they opened in Mexico's Condesa neighborhood over 40 years ago, offers franchise opportunities. And despite some knock-offs, as far as I know, no original El Tizoncito has ever been opened in the US. Seems like an easy concept for those with entrepreneurial drive and a bunch of investment capital. The hardest part would be that you would need to get a solid pastorero too, one that can deftly flip that pineapple onto the tortilla with a flick of his knife.

I have no drive for things like that. And I say with confidence that I couldn't possibly find the time. But any potential El Tizoncito restauranteur should contact me. Although I have no real capital to speak of, I would more than make up for it in time (and money) spent in your taqueria. And while I like to pride myself in not whoring out my blog to advertisements and whatever place offers me a free meal, unless you really screwed it up, my whole moral schema would be open to restructuring in exchange for free tacos from a place like El Tizoncito.

I jest of course. About the whoring that is. My food-blogging legs will stay forever crossed. But I am serious in hoping that someone does do this and that it first happens in Denver.

I imagine, though, that you don't want to hear more about far-fetched business plans from a man with as little economic know-how as the 112th United States Congress. What you are probably wondering now if you made it this far is: how were those tacos?

They were average for what I have had recently in Mexico City, which is to say they were fantastic. The taquero, or pastorero, was a little green, and he flipped a couple pineapple slices onto the floor, but we all need to learn somewhere. It was also a slow time of the day, so the pastor was ever-so-slightly dry, but the charcoal-flamed meat was deeply smoky on top of the spicy and sweet overtones of the marinade. It was yet another solid round of tacos al pastor in Mexico City, and although I am fading to sleep and groaning a little more than usual, I am all smiles on the inside.

As you can see, below average taquero. 

It's worth another look. At least this taquero had the skills to slice my meat paper thin:

This ends my plea for some angelic investor to bring a slice of Mexican corporate taco flavor to Denver. Although I will say one last thing in defense of this particular mega-chain: There could be worse things than a business that hangs signs explicitly stating that it doesn't discriminate based on race, sex or religion.

Although on second thought, signs like that get hung precisely because there was discrimination in the first place. Regardless, let's hope for the good of all the pastor-loving public that this smiling animated spit of pastor--or in the tradition of the streets of Mexico City a knock-off just as good--shows up on the streets of Denver soon.

And now, while my in-laws happily entertain my babies in the next room, I am going to push aside my computer at which I am prone and typing on a bed; and take a much-needed though seldom-had opportune siesta.


  1. I'm open to franchise ideas in general, but trying to compete in the $1-1.50 taco market just sounds too brutal.

  2. BTW, if you're ever in Hollywood, check out El Rincon Oaxaquena -- best tacos al pastor I've had stateside.

  3. Yum. I haven't visited Mexico City since I was a kid. I'm due for a trip back and of course will have to try to tacos.

  4. Sadly, the food health codes in the USA prohibit the tradition methods of cooking tacos al pastor.

    You have the same problem with any Doner kebob type meat. The inside doesn't cook to a high enough temp by the time the outside is ready to go.

  5. Donovan - I know. It is sad and true. I didn't mention it in this post b/c it was all fantasy anyway. Still I think a Tizoncito could make it work even with a second cooking.

  6. Lets have those names for tacos al pastor in the south of the D.F. ... no fair keeping them to yourself!

  7. OK Ruth - Tacos Copacabana por Division del Norte and Acoxpa is the family favorite.

  8. There are two El Tizoncito posts in the US, and they are both in Dallas. Both are a little over a year old and have become taco celebrities. I believe they are both run by a former executive at Mi Cocina. However, neither have the pineapple and onion on a spit. Instead, they already have chopped onion and pineapple in cups ready to serve. Unfortunately, while the onion may be freshly minced, the pineapple is clearly from a can. A minor quibble, but it is an inferior product to the real Mexico City stuff.

    Believe it or not, there is a taco stand at a gas station in Dallas named Fuel City. They are, hands down, the best pastor tacos in Dallas.

  9. Stephen - I think those are the "knock-offs" I was referring to:
    Doesn't look like a true Tizoncito, and I doubt this franchise would tolerate canned pineapple-- though I'm sure it's good.



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