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MSP - Al Pastor tacos

I was at the Midtown global market looking for some authentic tacos (I lived in SoCal and worked in Santa Ana for a period so I consider myself to know what good authentic mexican is). I tried a variety of different styles but I didn't think too much of any of them, just average.

Any suggestions for a solid Al Pastor Taco? by chance anyone who'd eaten at Taqueria de Ande in Orange County (there are several locations) have any suggestions?

Love the forum by the way...

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  1. Hey baba,

    I love Al Pastor. If you were at the Midtown Global Market, you were probably pretty close to some of the best Al Pastor we have in MSP -- all the taquerias along Lake Street are good candidates. What I've found around town is that Al Pastor, like gyros, can all be hit or miss, and often focus on some restaurant supply grade meat on a spit. Too often they lack the balance of crispy outsides and juicy/fatty insides and/or have either too much or too little pineapple flavor (some even hold the meat that has been cut off the spit in pineapple juice then finish on a griddle...yikes).

    Taqueria La Hacienda, just west of MGM on Lake Street is often mentioned here as the best in MSP. They are very consistent and it's the first place I send people looking for decent Al Pastor tacos. That said, there's just a "rusticness" that's missing in Al Pastor in this town, including La Hacienda, that you may be looking for.

    They have another location in the Mercado Central (Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue, the other way from Midtown Global Market on Lake). Mercado Central is a neat place you should check out even for non-Al Pastor Mexican outings.

    Another place that's good is Gorditas El Gordo (across the street from TLH on Lake).

    I haven't eaten at Taqueria de Ande but my best Al Pastor experience in the U.S. was in one of the seediest parts of Dallas out of the side of a mid-70s van (with custom-made spit/griddle apparatus) in a vacant lot a couple years back. Unfortunately, I've had no experiences here in MSP that come close in either style or quality of the food. Yeah...I measure every Al Pastor by that yardstick...unrealistic I know.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      Taqueria La Hacienda also has a 3rd location in Burnsville. Southwest corner of 13 & 5. The Al Pastor has, on occasions, been pretty good and just OK.

      1. re: shinmn

        Wow, I had no idea. That's great news.

      2. re: MSPD

        I haven't had tacos al pastor in a long time. One Mexican restaurant (as opposed to New Mexican or TexMex) in Albuquerque (where I used to live) served those for awhile. They got successful, moved to a nicer restaurant, and dropped tacos al pastor from their menu.

        I'm also looking for real TexMex (not the kind that's smothered in chile con carne) or New Mexican food (red or green) in the MSP area. Failing that, can I find frozen green chiles somewhere and good red chile powder so I can cook my own New Mexican food?

        1. re: paoconnell

          Now, a local source of frozen New Mexican hatch green chili would be a thing of beauty. There was a thread bouncing around on the general topics board this past fall asking for mail-order sources of fresh green chili, and if I hadn't been so swamped at that time I would have honored my off-and-on tradition of ordering a box of the fresh and roasting and freezing it myself to cook with until next season. That would bring a little heat into your winter, eh?

          I'll keep on the look-out for you, and, if you, or anyone else finds a local source, that would be fantastic. I guess I'll start exploring my grocers' freezers...

          ~TDQ

      3. the al pastor at the st paul los ocampos is generally quite good, with good crispiness-pineappliness ratio. omg i am so tired-- hopefully that last sentence is vaguely comprehensible. . . and i have not tried the same dish at the mpls locations so do not know how to compare them

        1. I have to defer to MSPD's list. I love the al pastor huaraches @ Gorditas el Gordo. At least the last two times we've gone the pastor was crispy and smoky and melted like good fat should.

          Pinedas (a block down from hacienda and gorditas) also has al pastor, though I cannot recall seeing it on the menu board. I think I just asked for it and they had it. Of all the taco places in town, this is the one that most reminds me of joints I've been to on Pico.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Foureyes137

            The problem with Al Pastor at Pineda, although it might not be the case at all locations as I'm most familiar with the S Robert St one and the one that used to be on Lake at Hiawatha that is no longer, is that most of the time the Al Pastor was already cut from the spit and sitting in a steam tray in the same way all of their other taco fillings are. They would just lift the lid and stick the meat in the tortilla...there was no crispiness or "sizzle" that you get from sliced-to-order Al Pastor. (Although in general, I like Pineda).

            "Pineappliness"...huh. I'll have to work that into a sentence some time. Right after I figure out why I'm always compelled to capitalize Al Pastor.

            1. re: MSPD

              You're 100% right about the steam table. Last time we went, we were on our way back from MOA, late, after some xmas shopping and they had started closing-up so they had to make everything from scratch. Lenuga, puerco, carnitas and barbacoa are fine from a steam table...but yeah, you have to have that crispyness to truly enjoy pastor.

          2. The La Hacienda at Mercado Central is better than the stand alone. Also Tacos Blass on 38th and Nicollet Ave. is recomended.

            9 Replies
            1. re: fishface

              La Mixteca if you are in the Bloomington area

              1. re: dave43

                I had Al Pastor tacos at La Mixteca a few weeks ago. Tasty! The meat was rich and had definite pineapple overtones.

                But note that they meat was already cut and sitting in a container - there wasn't any rotating meat in view - and was heated on the grill when I ordered it (mid-afternoon on a Saturday). I thought the taste was fine, but I suppose it would make a difference in a side-by-side taste test.

                Come to think of it, I prefer the cut-when-ordered Al Pastor at La Hacienda. But La Mixteca is just fine if you're in the area.

                Anne

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Anne!

                  I just had La Mixteca's tacos al pastor for lunch today. You're right.. it *is* super tasty. They re-fry it on their range top for you and it turns out really juicy and not greasy at all. I had it at La Hacienda#2 a while back and thought the grease was far too overwhelming such that I couldn't enjoy the meat. At La Mixteca it was just plain tasty.

                  SOrt of sad, but there was soo much filling in my 1 order of tacos that I wasn't even able to start my ceviche (my fav thing there, tied w.their guaraches). I packed it up separately in a big cup.. hope it stays all right marinated in our fridge for another meal soon.

                  1. re: reannd

                    I tried Mixteca on your suggestion. I did enjoy it. like you said not greasy but very flavorful. They warmed up the meat with white onions and some actual pineapple chunks. I tried the ceviche as well... It was good portion but I didn't taste much of the fish in there, the salsa was the main flavor working there... I'll give the guaraches a try next time I go back.

                    Also they had FANTASTIC horchata!

                    1. re: babaoriley7

                      We've split a discussion "What is an al pastor taco..." to the General Chowhound Topics Board. Please carry on that discussion here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/491522

                      Thank you.

                      1. re: babaoriley7

                        What a coincidence--Sunday night I had the same two things at La Mixteca: al pastor taco and tostada de ceviche. Both tasty!

                        I also had tepache, which is a kind of semi-fermented pineapple drink. I like it!

                        I am very happy with this place. It is difficult to choose between Mixteca, Kabob's, and India Cafe when we head to this strip mall.

                        1. re: EarlOfSandwich

                          hmmm, tepache!? that sounds quite intriguing. I should've mentioned in my earlier post that the pineapple was of the canned variety not fresh. Still I enjoyed it but I would like to see it made from fresh pineapple... I'll have to check out Taqueria La Hacienda next

                          1. re: babaoriley7

                            did you end up trying taqueria la hacienda? that's the first place i had al pastor and was turned off because of all the GREASE. their veg burrito was awesome, though.. so i'll take another trip back if you can conifrm the grease to pork ratio has improved. otherwise this post just made me want to go back to la mixteca. gosh it's so good.

                            ps i brought cupcakes once.. they couldn't care less =)

                          2. re: EarlOfSandwich

                            I agree on the hard choice...Last time we got some samosas and naan at Kabobs and went to Mixteca and oredered a meal and ate there. Is this in bad taste? We spent around $25 at La Mixteca so I would think they would rather have our business even though we brought some outside food.

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