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Tacos Al Pastor - Vertical Spit with Pineapple - Anyone in the east bay?

Any restaurants/ carts/ taco trucks in the easy bay cooking up the "real" Tacos Al Pastor? I'm looking for the pork freshly cut from a vertical spit with a slice of roasted pinapple added. Thanks!

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  1. Tacos El Gordo in Oakland has al pastor on a spit, but no pineapple. Available on weeknights and weekends only.

    Los Portales in Newark has al pastor on a spit with the pineapple.

    In SF, Taqueria San Jose has a spit, not sure about the pineapple though.

    7 Replies
      1. re: Xiao Yang

        Though the al pastor at the Oakland Taqueria San Jose are fantastic, there isn't pineapple there either.

        1. re: jillyju

          When I was at the Oakland TSJ, I didn't see a spit, and they were scooping the "al pastor" out of a steam-table bucket. At least that day, it was several big steps down from the canonical version at the SF Mission & 24th branch.

          I don't look for or want pineapple, so I dunno about that. Given the amount of meat on the spit, I don't think a slice of pineapple would make much difference.

        2. re: Xiao Yang

          Same for the Oakland outpost of Taqueria San Jose, their al Pastor rocks, but no pineapple in sight. Does "real al Pastor" always include pina? And is it grilled with the spinning meat or served as part of the salsa, not cooked? adam

          1. re: adamshoe

            I'm not sure it has to include pina, but it's usually cooked slightly when served.

            1. re: adamshoe

              IIRC, it's placed on top so the juices drip down the outside of the meat and add to the carmelization.

          2. re: DezzerSF

            I'll have to try the al pastor next time at Los Portales. So far, I've tried the chile verde (skip) and carne asada (ok).

          3. La Selva in Richmond has the best I've had in the Bay Area. Only on weekend nights thoug. Here's info

            1. Your best bet in the East Bay will be someplace in the Fruitvale area. Do a search for Ruth Lafler's posts on taquerias and trucks in that area.

              1. Here's where you need to go:
                Taqueria Los Portales
                36782 Cedar Boulevard, Newark

                1. I have heard that some of the Chavez Supermarket Taquerias have the vertical spit. I don't know if it is true or if they have the spit with pineapple. Anyone?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rcspott

                    Chavez Supermarket in Sunnyvale as well as Taqueria El Grullense in Palo Alto both have al pastor on the spit, but I don't care for their spicing. I guess a spit doesn't always equal good al pastor.

                  2. I haven't been in a while, but the taqueria inside Chavez Supermarket in Hayward used to make delicious Al Pastor on a spit with pineapple.

                    Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria
                    1157 W Tennyson Rd, Hayward, CA

                    1. Taqueria La Bamba in El Cerrito/Richmond has just re-opened. Theirs are cooked on the spit and then on the griddle -- fantastic! Also have stellar pupusas.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nanro

                        FWIW, every HITW serving al pastor in Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan that I have visited had pineapple on the spit that not only oozed into the meat but also appeared in wee chunklets on the taco itself, along with raw sweet onion and chopped cilantro. The pineapple was not cooked per se...

                      2. I haven't mentioned the Al Pastor tacos from Los Cantaros before since I can't vouch for how they are prepared. There is no spit in sight. They reheat prepared meat on a grill after you order, as far as I can tell. But they are tasty and they are served with chunks of roasted pinapple in the mix. The meat tastes like is has been cooked with the pineapple. Spit? Makes sense.

                        Now that this thread is revived, and now that I see others noting the total absense of pineapple in their al pastor tacos, I'm thinking that someone beside me should check into Los Cantaros and sniff around.

                        Los Cantaro's Taqueria 1
                        5412 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608

                        1. Tacubaya serves their Al Pastor with pineapple (at least the torta) but I can't recall if it comes from a spit.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: oaklandfoodie

                            What most people are alluding to is Al Pastor done in the traditional version from Mexico City--the origin of Al Pastor. I have never (nor has anyone that I've ever come across in the States) encountered an authentic Al Pastor. Unfortunately, it just isn't made here. Someday......

                            1. re: hankstramm

                              Al pastor most likely came from Lebanese immigrants in the Yucatan around the beginning of the 20th century.

                              The al pastor at Taqueria San Jose in SF is similar to what I've had in Guadalajara. As I noted above, unfortunately the al pastor at the Oakland branch isn't as good.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Indeed. As I understand it from a Mexican friend, the spits were originally used for lamb or shawarma machines but were cross purposed in Mexico after arrival. Al Pastor means of the shepherd in Spanish, which I take as lamb but of course it's pork.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Not most likely, but definitely from Lebanese immigrants. I've always heard in Mexico City not the Yucatan though--but that makes sense since it usually appears to be achiote color and achiote is very yucatecan. As for Guadalajara, I already mentioned on another thread what I think about Jalisco's contribution to Mexican food.. I've had the Al pastor at TSJ--it's good--it just isn't even close to authentic al pastor..

                                  1. re: hankstramm

                                    In what way does the style you characterize as "authentic" differ from what they do at TSJ?

                                    I've had another version of al pastor in the country outside of Guadalajara, where they roast the meat on metal stakes maybe six feet tall that have been driven into the ground around a huge firepit.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      There is a style (I wouldn't even call it a style but I will for lack of better word) of Al Pastor that is made all over Mexico City and the rest of Mexico for that matter. In my opinion, as well as anyone I know that has ever tried real al pastor, regards this the only true version of the dish. Everything else is just marinaded barbeque pork on a spit. What they serve at TSJ is tasty, it just doesn't at all taste like, look like or smell like real al pastor. I'm probably not a sophisticated eater enough to describe why it isn't, but it is miles away. If you ever go to Mexico City, shoot me a message and I'll send you in the direction of an "authentic" al pastor. I've read some of your columns, so I'm sure you know about the perceived dearth of al pastor in the US--I honestly have never had a good one here, I do like TSJ's bbq pork on a spit though, I just don't go there with certain expectations.

                                      Eating Al pastor in Guadalajara is like going for cheesesteaks in Minnesota or looking for pizza in Arkansas. You might find something you like and it might be darn good, it just isn't the real deal. Now their tortas ahogadas are to die for..

                                      1. re: hankstramm

                                        Generally, I think the pork in Mexico has more flavor.

                                        A high percentage of families in Guadalajara relocated there after the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, so I'm skeptical that there's a style of al pastor you can get in the D.F. that you can't get in GDL.

                                        Here are some pictures of that other style of al pastor from La Laya, outside of Guadalajara:


                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I'd agree on that--pork, lamb and mutton is much better down there. I'm sure you can get real al pastor in GDL--but it would be the Mexico City style that is much different than that served in TSJ in SF at least.

                                          I think part of the problem outside Mex City is that there, if you just say, "give me 3 tacos" and don't specify, you'll get 3 al pastor by default. Because of this, I think the tacos cook much better on the spit as they are constantly serving them. I'm sure this is the same in GDL..

                                          1. re: hankstramm

                                            That's true everywhere, except when it gets busy and to keep up with the orders they slice the meat before it gets the proper char.

                                    2. re: hankstramm

                                      Really swell ... really swell ... article about the history and influence of the Lebanese in Mexico.

                                      . It is by David Sterling who runs Los Dos, a cooking school in Merida devoted to Yucatan Cuisine. All the articles I've read on the site are top-notch and very detaiedl ... and I do love detail. There's a list of recipes as well ... even a mini review of a Lebanese restaurant in Merida.. Interesting site.

                                      Anyway, read the article and speculate no more about where and how tacos al pastor got its start

                                2. re: oaklandfoodie

                                  Tacubaya pork is done on a vertical spit; you can see it in all its glory directly behind the counter.

                                  1788 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                  1. re: dordogne

                                    Having had al pastor in Mexico and Central American this past year, the Tacubaya is very good, but not really the same. I need to revisit La Selva to see if I like that as much. The place has really flowered. They are building some sort of meat roasting pit outdoors and I want to see what that means.

                                3. Thank you all for your contributions to this topic, I lived in Queretaro for a year and ate delicious D.F. style al pastor frequently there, (with the pinapple and onion and cilantro) but have been missing it feverently since returning to the bay area. Taqueria San Jose is definitey my next stop on my search, and I have also heard that El Castillo on Church and Market has it on the spit as well. La Parilla on 24th street and Folsom has delicious grilled meats, although no al pastor on the spit, they do have excellent meats and delicious fried plantain and fried yucca, which I haven;t had since visiting the yucatan.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Amys120

                                    Thanks for the tip on La Parilla. Have you tried any salvadorna restaurants? They usually have fried plantain and fried yucca.

                                    La Parilla
                                    8492 Gravenstein Hwy, Cotati, CA 94931

                                  2. I ordered two al pastor tacos at El Caballo in Alameda today and was pleasantly surprised to realize that the little charred yellow bits were pineapple.

                                    I'm whacking myself with a bad chowhound noodle for not giving this place a serious look before. I think I had ordered one thing a long time ago, not been impressed, and never took another look.

                                    This time I ordered two things: the aforementioned al pastor tacos ("street tacos" -- $1.60) and a vegetarian tamale ($3.25). Normally I wouldn't order a vegetarian tamale, but I was intrigued by the description of it having a sweet potato filling. The masa was fluffy and tender (appeared to be freshly steamed, not reheated), the sweet potato was one of the white varieties, and although I would have liked a higher ratio of sweet potato to masa, it was tasty. It was served unwrapped on the husk with an undistinguished thin red sauce and a sprinkle of grated Mexican cheese blend, with some pico de gallo on the side. Based on the quality of the masa, I'd order tamales there again.

                                    The al pastor was also very good: a classic street taco on doubled tortillas, generously filled with meat and topped with cilantro and onion but no salsa (see below). The meat was moist and tender and had a good char and a bit of smoke flavor. The seasoning was well-balanced, with just a hint of cinnamon (I don't like too much cinnamon) and there were little bursts of sweetness from the pineapple. It was delicious as-served, but reached a whole other realm when I added some of the green salsa on the table.

                                    There were squeeze bottles with both red and green housemade salsa on the tables. I only got my paws on the green, but it was delicious: a smooth, creamy tomatillo base liberally flecked with cilantro with a definite chile kick on the finish.

                                    There were some other interesting items on the menu ("Rudy's" spinach enchiladas, which sounds like someone's specialty!). I have a feeling that it's one of those places where you get a completely different impression depending on what you order.

                                    One of the pictures on the website shows a sign proclaiming "under new ownership"
                                    -- that may explain why my first impression was so diferent. http://www.elcaballowraps.com/index.html

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I've been to that taco joint before, under the previous ownership. It wasn't anything special (couldn't find a reason to go back) so this is news.

                                      1. re: ML8000

                                        I'm glad someone else got the same initial impression!

                                    2. Xolo (same owners as Tacubaya) in Uptown Oakland across from the Fox on Telegraph is very good. They do the al pastor on a vertical spit with pineapple on top. Delicious, great quality. Not taco truck prices. Be prepared. The "Vampiro" taco features the al pastor. Delish.