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Al Pastor Tacos

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Any leads for Al Pastor tacos prepared on the vertical spit, trucks and/or sitdown, East Bay-SF-Marin county. Thanks

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  1. Taqueria San Jose on International Blvd in Oakland.

    8 Replies
    1. re: DezzerSF
      Robert Lauriston

      Or Taqueria San Jose in SF at 2830 Mission St. (near 24th).

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Or Taqueria San Jose in San Rafael on Fourth Street near Lincoln.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Second Taqueria San Jose on Mission. Their tacos are stellar in general.

        2. re: DezzerSF

          The last couple of times I got al pastor tacos at Taqueria San Jose on International Blvd, I haven't been that impressed. They were alright, but nothing exciting flavor wise. My favorite is still El Gordo #2 across the street from the BK on International. They always have the right mix of juicy and crunch bits and strong spicy flavor that is missing from San Jose.

          1. re: IanW

            I'll admit TSJ used to be better before. It can be hit or miss now. I'll have to try El Gordo now that you've mentioned it.

            Mi Pueblo's taqueria does a really good al pastor, about as good as I remember TSJ being.

            I tried the Sinaloa truck last night after the A's game. Their pastor was VERY spicy.

            1. re: DezzerSF

              I swear by Taco Sinaloa, but which truck did you try? I prefer the seasoning at the truck on the right - especially when Juana's cooking :o) - but was surprised to find that the guys on the left actually make their tacos perfectly crisp when asked. A lot of times, the one on the right fries them hard.

              1. re: adrienne156

                I tried the one on the 23rd Ave side, not on the International side. Would that be the right? I don't remember the tortillas being fried though, just plain soft corn tortillas.

                Are the tacos there usually that spicy (hot)? Is it from the salsa or the pastor spices?

                1. re: DezzerSF

                  Yup, that's the one on the right.

                  They always heat up the tortillas on the greasy griddle - if they were soft, they just didn't fry them long enough. You have to ask if you want them crispier. ..And as to their spiciness, it must have been a spicy batch of pastor. Their salsa tends to have some heat, but not enough to really notice since they put it on all of their tacos.

                  ...Now I've gone and done it. I'm going to have to go get some for lunch.

        3. El Gordo taco truck -- parked on International at 42nd (Oakland) only on weekends and after six on weekdays, but open late (3 am).

          I believe that the taqueria side of Otaez (International at 39th) also has a spit of pastor.

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I also highly recommend Otaez on International Blvd in Oakland. So far the best al pastor tacos I've had in the U.S.

          2. Depending on how far east you want to go, Mercado del Valle, at 1651 Monument in Concord, has great spitted al pastor. They slice it off fresh for almost every order, and it has those crunchy well done bits mixed with the tender inner bits of porky goodness. The best way, IMHO, is to have it as a taco, with onion, cilantro, and some of their good salsa. The other meats, beans, and rice are okay, but the pastor really shines.

            They also have a good butcher section, with marinated al pastor (and other meats) ready to go if you have a spit of your own.

            1. An interesting, non-obvious source of decent pastor is Burritoville on Magnolia Ave. (next to the theater) in Larkspur.

              This is an otherwise pretty ordinary white-bread burrito shop, but I have now had their pastor tacos three times and really enjoyed the crunchy goodness and porky flavor.

              It's definitely not the $1 taco scenario, but good flavor with their hot salsa.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Um, yes? What do you mean? How are you defining spit? It looks like that picture Melanie provided.

                    Don't know enough about the subject? I will say I wasn't wild about it ... gringo al pastor ... but others might have other opinions ... so I threw it in there.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Tacubaya has a vertical rotating spit like gyros, right?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Uh, yeah .. .is there a difference ... really ... my experinece is ... metal pole with attached meat.

                        1. re: rworange

                          rw, Two reasons, w/ the 'authentic for Al Pastor' vert spit, the juices flow down and further flavor the meat and prob just as important, esp for the cook, the vert spit makes it easier to slice and catch the meat w/ the handheld tortilla. At my favorite place for Al Pastor in Tecate, it's fun to watch the guy slice, catch, assemble and plate 4-5 per min at 50 cents a pop! All the taco places I've been to up and down Baja use the vert spit. Takes up less floorspace too.

                          1. re: Bookmark

                            Interesting to know why this is preferred. Cool ... but doesn't it just mean meat on a metal stick as opposed to marinated pork that is roasted or baked? What does 'spit' mean otherwise?

                            Tacubaya has a vertical gyro-type hunk of meat on a metal pole with a pineapple or maybe orange on top that they slice meat off. That was what I meant when I origianally said they had al pastor on a spit. That is my idea of what it means. Is there a different type of meat on a stick? Is 'spit' defined in another way? I'm now having visions of a spit pit or something.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Same seasoned pork without the spit is often called adobada.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                You know, I have had adobado/a and I didn't make the connection that the meat was the same as al pastor- I have had what seemed to be a tenderized slab of pork marinated in slightly citrusy chipotle/pepper paste. I think part of it is that I am not certain what exactly goes into al pastor besides peppers of some kind, and that I haven't noticed adobado on menus around here.

                              2. re: rworange

                                RW... is the meat cooking while gyrating.... or do they cook it elsewhere and then put it on a metal pole to help slice it?

                                To your other question... yes a Spit can be defined as a pit. Don't know if you ever went Cerro de la Cilla, or El Diplomatic when you worked in Mexico City but there they do Cabrito (Monterrey style roasted kid) which is traditionally done as a whole Kid (suckling goat) on a Horizontal slow rotating stick / bar over a flame & smoke... all in an open pit.... and the whole thing is also referred to as a Spit.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  2nd the Tacubaya el pastor, definite verticallity going on there with their spit. Tasty stuff, but I love a few of the trucks in Napa also, though can't confirm the meat came from a spit.

                              3. re: rworange

                                Some places sell griddled pork (basically fajitas) as "al pastor," that's why people ask if there's a spit.

                      2. If you're willing to cross over the Marin County line a few miles further north, I can recommend Lolita's market in Petaluma. Here's RCK's post with a photo.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I love going up to Petaluma on a hot summer day or any day for that matter and getting some tacos at Lolitas. Al pastor is some of the best, good spice and good oil. Lengua tacos are some of the best I've had. Overall, everything looks good but I am so eager to get to the tacos that I have not ventured out to some of the other dishes I might wish to try such as the birria.

                        2. El Farolito, on Mission near 24th, or 24th near Alabama, in San Francisco, is still my favorite pastor.

                          1. My favorite Al Pastor tacos (not burritos, but tacos) in San Francisco is La Altena, on Mission between 22nd and 21st.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: celeste

                              I want to like La Altena, particularly since it is so close to home, but I've been disappointed with the al pastor, both on the visit below, and subsequently....


                            2. I'm still a Cancun fan for Al Pastor...it has a high turn over so it's usually fresh or prepped recently.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ML8000

                                Cancun wins for me in the category of best al pastor burritos, but in taco form I find the pork bits more nicely browned and seasoned in the La Altena versions.

                              2. Thats one of my pet peeves when I order Al Pastor; making me rarely/never order it unless I can see the "Vertical Spit" in the back of the kitchen!

                                Most places (95%) just cook it up in a stew-like heat lamp style before serving or similar to stir frying it on a griddle with an Adobada marinade which makes it tough and weird texture and just yucky.

                                The good places (mostly in Mexico, some in SoCal) actually use a big piece of marinaded meat on a continuous rottiserie (vertical) which tastes waay better, more tender, juicy, and has slight char to it like a barbecues/grilled piece of meat :)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: fooddudeone

                                  food; I always ask for the charred bits if available, but the places in Baja usually have so much traffic and w/ so much being constantly sliced off the whole, there's seldom enough time for the meat to char.

                                  I've sometimes seen many, many marinated slices of pork, 1/4"-1/2", being 'assembled' into a huge hunk of meat on the vert spit. Kinda like stacking pineapple slices back into a whole.

                                  I've been to places in Nor/SoCal WITH empty/unused vert spits but still offering Al Pastor!!?? What's the point? Prob low demand, so they figure why fire up the gizmo and cook up a huge piece of meat. The Taq SJ in San Rafael was one such recently. Maybe they were just down to the last bits and took off the last hunk of pork to slice it on a cutting board. Tho it was late lunchtime and still pretty early in the biz day for them. Who knows? All the other times their spit was being used and I ordered their great Al Pastor.

                                  1. re: Bookmark

                                    A lot of places on the peninsula here have the spit, but it is always slices of meat packed on, with some pineapple in there, but very few slice it straight off the spit for your taco. Most places slice it as it is ready, but then it goes to the steam table. Places good south of the city are Mi Puebla on Rengstorff in Mountain View and E&E Tacos el Grullense (El Camino in RC, two locations on Middlefield in RC) and E&G Tacos El Grullense (El Camino in Redwood City and Palo Alto).

                                2. Last time I went to Gordo's on 9th/Irving, they had a fat deal on al pastor tacos - $1.25 each.

                                  1. welpp..i tried La Taqueria and El Faralito recently, thx to this post

                                    I liked em...

                                    El Faralito:

                                    I tried a Pastor burrito and carnitas taco, decent, nothing crazy or a "must go", but good. The Al Pastor is good, nice and slightly charred edges, tender, moist, not dry, but bland in taste.. while the flour tortilla was nothing special/ standard issue, not handrolled and powdery like some in Socal and LA;

                                    The carnitas taco, kinda whatever.. corn tortilla nothing special and pretty standard issue while the carnitas was moist; but, had no crispyness to it, flavorless, and no toppings.

                                    La Taqueria:

                                    They dont serve Al Pastor i think. But i got a carnitas taco and carne asada taco. Both of them had corn tortillas that were very good and slightly griddled/fried to give that tortilla half soft while very slighty crisp (forgot the mexican term for this).

                                    The asada was spectacular. little charred from griling and flavorful, and so was the carnitas which was crisp w/out being dry, moist, tender and flavorful.

                                    Even though La Taqueria has no Al Pastor (do they? i forgot to get it that time), it was mush better than El Faralito IMO.

                                    I'll try La Altena and Taqu. San Jose next time im in the mood for mex.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: fooddudeone

                                      whatever taqueria is across the street el farolito has much more assertive and spicy (not heat, but other spice flavors). I find that great al pastor is amazing but good to really good al Pastor can be made by the salsa spalshed on the taco.

                                      1. re: P. Punko

                                        Good point... with that said what salsa do you all normally get in the Bay Area? The best pairing imo is an avocado-tomatillo salsa... rounds out the flavors & boosts the herbal contrast provided by the cilantro & onions.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          the places I go to do salsa verde on carnitas and a red one on al pastor. the smokiness (from the peppers) and the heat always vary. The other thing is that some al Pastor comes with cooked almost caramelized onion and maybe some pineapple from the spit which can sweeten things and add more flavor notes, which might effect what kind of salsa fits best. If the meat were spicy enough I think something greenish like you mention would be great. The best red I have had recently was at an E and E Tacos El Grullense on Middlefield in Redwood City- and it was really all how assertive their salsa roja was- I literally stopped midbite and said "WOW." I wasn't thinking like a chowhound because it was the last taco of a taco crawl and I ate it so fast I couldn't even consider what I was tasting that was so amazing. I know that some other people (Ruth Lafler?) at a particular East Bay truck specifically ask for the green, I think ,even though the tacos come with the red.

                                          1. re: P. Punko

                                            Tacos El Grullense. The locations in Mtn. View, Palo Alto and on Woodside Road in Redwood City all have Al Pastor on a spit. However, I think the Sequoia location has the best Al Pastor of any of them and I don't think it's on a spit. This place is all about the tacos, if you're down that way make sure to check it out. I think the Sequoia and the Mtn View location are the best overall.

                                            1. re: virtualguthrie

                                              So the E and E ones are a little different than the J and G ones, I think. I know the Sequoia location and the Palo Alto have the same decor and menus and everything, PA has a spit and as you say, Seq. didn't have a visible one. The best I have had are at this location:

                                              2940 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City, CA
                                              (650) 364-8449

                                              No visible spit- and it is the most hole in the wall of all of them. I wonder if they even have a kitchen.

                                              Also, next door was a really good looking Torta place:

                                              La Casita Chilanga
                                              (650) 568-0351
                                              2928 Middlefield Rd
                                              Redwood City, California 94063

                                              We were in there late afternoon and they weren't busy, and my friend got one lovingly crafted- and they heat them up in a sandwich press, only lightly squished. He got a salty smoked pork that was very savory- it was like ham without the excessive ham-yness.

                                    2. Tonayense Taco Truck next to Best Buy on Harrison. Al Pastor is their speciality. I'm a taco fanatic. Please trust me on this place. You can thank me later.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: PulledPork

                                        That taco truck has incredible al pastor. Don't know if they have a spit or not, but the flavor of the pork is great.

                                        Chavez in Hayward has the metal cylinder spit roasting machine. Great tacos.
                                        They have a few locations, I can only comment on the Hayward one.


                                        1. re: Fussy Foodie

                                          Chavez in Redwood City was kind of meh, but anyplace can be hit of miss. They usually get good marks for their taquerias.

                                        2. re: PulledPork

                                          I wholeheartedly agree. The Tonayense Taco Trucks (there are three of them, I believe, all on Harrison) are the best Al Pastor tacos in the city. Their tripitas are also very authentic.

                                        3. Finally tried Taq. San Jose on 25/mission...I loved their al pastor. My fave so far.

                                          As for their other items like asada and carnitas, i rank San Jose first, La Taqueria second, and El Faralito last (not third; i was really disappointed)

                                          I still have to try La Altena, Cancun chain and others.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: fooddudeone

                                            For me, overall, TSJ is the place to go. Of the 15 or so trucks and joints I've tried in the Mission, Fruitvale and Richmond, TSJ, even w/ some minor bumps, is still my #1 go to place for taq mex. Every first timer I taken along have always been happy there.

                                            1. re: fooddudeone

                                              I just tried the TSJ Mission St location as well a few weeks back. I'm not sure the Oakland one is a branch after the worker abruptly negated any relation. However, the al pastor tasted very similar to Oakland's and featured all the same salsa offerings.

                                              I did notice that the tomatillo salsa was thinner & watered down here though. I prefer Oakland's as it's consistenly thick and spicy.