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Mar 19, 2008 07:08 PM

Rosita's Al Pastor - what did I do wrong?

After noting all the enthusiastic praise on this board, I finally checked out Al Pastor. I ordered what I think was called "Sizzling Al Pastor" for 2. The description was 1 lb of al pastor meat, plus rice/beans/salsas, onions and peppers. I took my order to go, but I live less than 5 minutes away, so the food wasn't manhandled or sitting for long.

What I received were 5 doughy corn tortillas, several overly generous tubs of salsas/pico de gallo/salty guac (which has a suspiciously smooth texture and color, as if it were industrial guac mixed with a few fresh avocados for texture), and a styrofoam container with a small mash of rice and beans (they were thorougly mixed and together wouldn't have filled the container used for salsa) and a scant 1 lb mixture of onions, peppers, and small strips of pork. I'd say the mixture was at most 50% meat, maybe more like 40%.

This was almost $20, and while not lacking taste, wasn't very special, and the flavor of the meat was instantly overwhelmed by any of the salsas. We each got 2 tacos out of it (and luckily so, since we were nearly out of tortillas).

I wanted a good helping of tasty meat with enough rice and beans for the 2 of us. We're not big on the taco format, so I wanted to be able to eat the meat over the rice, with a fork, etc. I had hoped that the quantity of meat would resemble what I can usually get in a 1lb. order of fajitas at other places (ie., 1 lb. of meat), with onions and peppers in addition.

What should we have ordered, or was it an off night, or was there a mistake? The price was much higher than I expected to pay, esp. for what we got.

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  1. I had a similar experience on my only visit. I ordered the same thing and the meat was very dry,tortillas doughy and beans were like glue. Based on recommendations of some more prominent hounds I didn't want to give a lousy review. Because everybody has a bad day now and then. My first impression was also a large bowl of salsa(which I like)that had very little flavor or heat. I'd like to hear more on this place. Maybe I didn't order the right thing.

    11 Replies
    1. re: crippstom

      I usually order the lunch special of five al pastor tacos for $5, so I'm not sure what the norm is for the "sizzling al pastor" platter for two.

      It may be that Rosita's version of al pastor is not to your liking. Around here, most places serve a griddle-fried, faux version of "al pastor," also known as puerco adobado. (I say "faux" because "al pastor" refers to meat that's been cooked in the shepherd's style, or roasted on a spit.) Faux al pastor is usually highly seasoned and often sweet; it's also often very tender, as though the meat has been steamed first, then finished on a hot griddle. Al pastor that's been marinated and cooked traditionally, on a trompe [vertical spit] with a pineapple on top whose juices drip down onto the meat, is more subtly spiced and has a different texture. It's like Mexican gyro or souvlaki: Thin slices of al pastor are sliced off the meat on the spit and placed in tacos or on a plate.

      It's always possible that the kitchen has had a couple of off days or even that the restaurant has gone downhill. I haven't been in several months, but maybe other chowhounds who are regulars can comment on their consistency.

      1. re: MPH

        Thanks, MPH, but my issues were not really with the meat at all. The meat was pretty good, certainly the tastiest part, and we like chewier bits. I've never had al pastor in any other Austin establishment, only in some of the taquerias in far uptown Manhattan, so I cant compare on Austin terms. But for $18.99, there was hardly any of it (hell, for 8.99, there was hardly any of it), and I expected a good deal based on the other comments and descriptions. What I got were boatloads of salsas, not-great tortillas, tons of onions and peppers, some "beansnrice" (they were pretty thoroughly mixed up), and a little bit of meat. For $20. And no pineapples.

        I feel ripped off more than anything else, and that, much more than slightly disappointing food, makes me less likely to try a place again: kitchens can have off days; management, less so. I'd like to try the meat again, but we're not the biggest taco fans in my house (I like them, but my un-American husband has only grudgingly accepted them as an inevitable part of living in Austin), and I was hoping to get a nice amount of meat to eat with rice and beans.

        I did notice that the "Rosita's" part of the sign has been removed. Maybe there's new ownership?

        1. re: renz

          I agree that shelling out $19 for what you received seems like a rip-off, renz. Their lunch special that I described above is quite a steal. However, if you don't like tacos, the five-taco special is not going to do it for you.

          Thanks for posting on your experience and about the possible change of management. I'm traveling this week, but I'll try to check out the ownership/management situation when I return. Unless someone else beats me to it. . .

          1. re: MPH

            Some day I'll have to try the taco special, when I'm looking for a lunch on my own (it's not that I don't like tacos, but my husband doesn't); it does sound like a good deal, and I'd like a better face-off with that meat.

            1. re: renz

              Tried Al Pastor this weekend. Ordered "burrito" and quesadilla. Both just plain horrible. Will not return.

              1. re: sumodoc

                Hmmm.... I don't know where to start here. Al Pastor is something I feel pretty strongly about. I ate at "Al Pastor" earlier today, and while it wasn't close to the best I've had (in Mexico or out of a truck in LA) I thought it was without a doubt on the high end for Austin, which typically butchers this dish (not in the good way, off the spit). Some things on their menu are peculiar, though, and may cause some of the trouble expressed here.

                First off, please, people need to be considerate of the fact that this is actual mexican food, and not tex-mex. I don't know how to approach comments like "I don't like Tacos," which to me is like going to a burger place and not liking burgers. That said, I think the problem with their "dinner plate" was that it tried to Texify( to create a word) the Al Pastor. Thankfully they didn't perform the sickly-sweet sin of adding Pineapple. I think we need to start some sort of Austin campaign to get pineapple out of our Al Pastor (Who did this backsliding "innovation", and thought it was a good idea?). The mistake they did commit is they added peppers and onions to make it like fajitas (not very good). I've never seen this before and found it weird, and not really advertised this way in the menu description (I wouldn't have ordered it). This was the most expensive thing ordered today, and the most disappointing.

                Cheaper, and much better were the taco plates. The Torta was delicious and a real steal in terms of price. Those two dishes seemed to have better meat chunks (crispy!) and together cost about the same as the dinner plate. That just didn't make sense to me.

                I found both their types of tortillas delicious and homemade. They were hearty and authentic, and if you don't like that, again, you're missing some of the best parts of authentic Mexican food.

                Finally, it should be noted, please, please don't confuse the avocado salsa they present with the meat as guacamole! IT"S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE GUACAMOLE, so if you judge it by that standard of course you're not going to like it. It's supposed to be a liquidy, avocado based salsa which is the traditional accompaniment of Al Pastor tacos. It wasn't the best version I've ever had (I like more lime, MORE liquidity) but I felt this version had a good heat. It should be very spicy, btw.

                So, I hope maybe some people are willing to retry this place with that in mind. We hit and missed with our order, but the chepaest things on the menu are some of the best, and as it stands it's some of the best Al Pastor in town. You can see the spit back in the kitchen. I also recently enjoyed an Al Pastor burrito at Fuegos but I suspect there was no spit involved, meaning it lacked the signature charring I like so much.

                1. re: TarquinWinot


                  I would disagree with your assertion regarding pineapple.

                  1) Most places in Austin seem to omit it
                  2) I have had 'al pastor' tacos served in many different places in geographically diverse areas of Mexico. I found pineapple to be a very common ingredient. I won't say it was in every taco I ate, but I don't remember any tacos without it.

                  I think Rosita's Al Pastor has been in decline for unkown reason in the last couple of months. I eat there fairly regularly, and the al pastor tacos (especially the tortillas) are just not as good as they were when I first started going there.

                  1. re: El General

                    Weird. I'd have to disagree with both counts from my experience in Austin and throughout Mexico. That doesn't prove much, of course, other than that we may be eating at different places, in both places.

                    Anyway, don't get me wrong, I'm always fond of the pineapple on the top of the spit, with the juices running down, but can't be sold on the cut-up chunks passed off around town. Placing authenticity (which I'm not qualified to argue, except anecdotally) aside to discuss taste, I just find it overpowers. It's like pineapple on pizza to me.

                    What crippstom describes above, with the vertical spit, is my platonic idea of Al Pastor. I've pretty muched stopped ordering Al Pastor in Austin except for the most hole-in-the-wall establishments after too many disappointments where the only "spit" involved, is me spitting the stuff out. I find it too sweet.

                    1. re: TarquinWinot

                      I agree that if pineapple is involved that it should be cooking on the spit not chopped and thrown in.

                      1. re: TarquinWinot

                        Tarquin...erudiite and intelligent discourses on the sad state of Austin pastor...Being from San Francisco I have my own prejudices, but don't hold that against me...I must say that in my travels to taco trucks all over Northern CA, of which there are thousands, I have never seen pineapple served anywhere near Tacos al Pastor...I've also traveled extensively in Mexico, including Sonora. Oaxaca and the Cuernavaca regions and not seen pineapple grace an al Pastor...that being said, I have had a rather decent and tasty al Pastor at Habanero, sin pina...

                        1. re: jungleboy

                          As I've said before, there's a cart at St. John's and I35 that roasts the trompe on a spit, albeit a gas fired burner. The last time I went, someone offered me weed when I went into the store nearby. Ten tacos for ten $, they are pretty good, but lately, the meat doesn't seem roasted enough.

                          Who else does it on the trompe?

      2. Rosita's is about half a mile from my daughter's apartment. As a former New Mexican long time resident stuck in Lower Galoshes, Maine, I found the al pastor tacos a little bit of heaven and I ate so many, I had to go to a taco 12 step program upon return. I find the is funny board with a lot of well educated, upper middle class (generalization) arguing the merits of a low class, immigrant Mexican food. God bless ya and don't move to Maine. Lobster is tedious, over price and over rated compared to a jewel of a taco al pastor (please excuse the hyperbole.)