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Jan 12, 2010 05:10 AM

Tacos Al Pastor in Manhattan?

Where can I find the best Tacos al Pastor in Manhattan only? Thanks!

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    1. Definitely go to Taco Mix at 234 E 116th St. Its an authentic hole in the wall taqueria in my neighborhood. The food is amazing- I can't figure out what they do to make it taste so good. Their tacos al pastor are one of the most popular items on the menu. I really can't say enough good things about this place!

      7 Replies
      1. re: gillsnthrills

        Taco Mix is great. Also want to recommend Cascabel, new-ish place on the UES that is turning out some mighty fine stuff.

        1. re: gutsofsteel

          Cascabel is good too, and its great that they use some free range meats. But I think I still prefer Taco Mix. Also, I don't think tacos al pastor are a menu item at Cascabel.

          1. re: gillsnthrills

            Oops sorry I didn't remember that Cascabal doesn't have an al pastor taco on the menu. But it's really worth a visit. I love Taco Mix too.

        2. re: gillsnthrills

          I haven't been to Taco Mix yet. What else would you recommend aside from the tacos al pastor? Are their tortas any good?

          1. re: JungMann

            cabeza if they have it

            1. re: JungMann

              Yes! The tortas are delicious- especially the torta de chorizo. I also love the quesadillas made with homemade tortillas. The best is the huitlacoche quesadilla followed by the flor de calabaza. Don't forget to eat teh pickled habaneros and onions that are available on the counter.

            2. re: gillsnthrills

              I've gone several times now (usually on the front end of a Patsy's trip) and wow--everything I've had has been top notch.

            3. This may not be an ideal place to begin this discussion, but can anyone explain in historical or cultural (or practical?) terms the seeming rarity of pork in general in manhattan mexican joints?

              I initially suspected some form of confirmation bias but more rigorous efforts to check menus each time i walk past places has caused me to dismiss this explanation - coming from the west coast i dont think i had ever seen a mexican place that didnt serve pig (mariscos places as a possible exception).

              To clarify, im mostly referring to down market places, usually billed as tex-mex (though seeming to be run of the mill, neon-signed, counter service style taquerias).

              Is this observation totally false? If it is not, is the absence of pork products from these places a relic of the disproportionately jewish population in the city? I recognize that i am not talking about particularly authentic places - and all my favorite sunset park places serve pork, and a lot of it, but i guess im just looking for confirmation of this strangeness and to see if anyone can source a compelling explanation of its origin.

              19 Replies
              1. re: tex.s.toast

                I have never noticed any such thing.

                Also, in general, there is pork EVERYWHERE in NYC - it's a pork-lovin' town.

                1. re: tex.s.toast

                  <is the absence of pork products from these places a relic of the disproportionately jewish population in the city? >

                  Very doubtful. Someone who keeps kosher probably wouldn't eat the beef or the chicken, either. I'm also a little wary of the word "disproportionately." Is there a correct number of Jews a city ought to have, and we've gone over it?

                  1. re: small h

                    to be clear, i am well aware of the rules of kashrut and know that someone who keeps kosher would not eat even non-treif items prepared in an unkosher kitchen, however there are certainly people who, while they dont keep strictly kosher, do not eat pig as a matter of practice.

                    when i said disproportionate i did not mean that there were too many jews in new york (myself included) but rather that it is, without a doubt, a major jewish population center and, as such, has a higher proportion of jewish citizens than other cities.

                    i guess ill have to gather some hard data on the places i swear ive walked past who don't seem to serve pork, and until then it doesnt seem like its worth it to explain something im not entirely sure exists.

                  2. re: tex.s.toast

                    As a disproportionately pork-loving Jew who also lived in California, I've asked a few Mexican restaurants in the East Village why they didn't sell more pork and got a uniform answer: pork doesn't sell. Pork is a recent trend in these parts. When I first moved here a pig couldn't get arrested in the East Village. But between Porchetta and Momofuku pork buns, things have started looking up. I'd still skip the local Mexican, though, unless it's the taco truck on 14th st or Union Square. At least they're cheap.

                    1. re: hungrycomposer

                      I've never been to California, but I've been to Mexico City many times. I think you need to come uptown or to the Bronx and try some of the Mexican places. There are many disappointing restaurants, but there's also some really great mexican food if you look around!

                      1. re: gillsnthrills

                        i think that hungrycomposer and i are on the same page regarding most downtown mexican - uptown and the bronx is a little farther than i usually travel, but i tend to get my mexican fix in sunset park, bk. i dont think i'd eat at a mexican place that didnt serve pork. im going to step in and interpret hc's "id still skip the local mexican" to mean that the east village doesn't offer any particularly enticing mexican options - though i do think i just read a positive review of a "mission burrito" oriented place that is fairly new (and, incidentally, serves carnitas, though it wasn't particularly highly recommended).

                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                          I went to Dos Toros when they first opened, and found it bland and disappointing. I'll admit it's unfair to pass judgment on a brand new restaurant, but I'm not in a hurry to go back. I'm sure there are better neighborhoods for Mexican food in New York. I do like Zaragoza grocery, partly because the owners are so nice and the food is priced right.

                      2. re: hungrycomposer

                        >>When I first moved here a pig couldn't get arrested in the East Village.

                        A few years ago hardly anyone could get arrested in the EV.

                        Anyway, which 14th St. taco truck are you talking about? I've noticed Sobre Ruedas parked there during the day on several occasions, but I think there are others, too.

                        Sobre Ruedas does have a pretty decent version most of the time, though it varies wildly in quality, I guess depending on who's at the grill and how busy they are. They do include little bits of pineapple and at its best, the meat is tender, though I'm pretty sure not slow-roasted. (At its worst, the meat is dry and tough from having been reheated on the grill one too many times.) Tacos are served with a sprinkle of cilantro and onions if you want them. Tortillas are packaged, but most of the guys who work at the truck do a nice job of grilling them before serving.

                        1. re: cimui

                          So true.
                          Where is Sobre Ruedas?
                          The 14th street trucks I know are El Idolo, at 14th and 8th Avenue. I have also seen the Paty's truck on the west side of Union Square just north of 14th, but they said they would only be there after 11. I haven't gone there for a month or so, but they also have huraches, tortas, stuff I haven't seen as much on trucks. I usually go for the carnitas at El Idolo. Can't remember the al pastor. They are both worth a shot, better than most restaurant Mexican in the East Village (even tho El Idolo is westside...)

                          1. re: hungrycomposer

                            Sobre Ruedas is at 14th and 7th Ave (southwestern corner) during the day. I think around 5 or so, they head up to the UWS to park at 96th St. / B'way. I like the taco fillings there (and the guys who work there) a lot better than the ones at El Idolo: Sobre Rueda's meat fillings tend to be a lot more tender and nuanced in flavor. (For the record, El Idolo does have better tamales.)

                            I'll have to look for Paty's -- thanks!

                            1. re: cimui

                              Did Super Tacos change its names? As I recall, the truck on 14th/7th and 96th/B'way were both named Super Taco.

                              1. re: JungMann

                                Hmm. I'm working from (frequently faulty) memory, but I do seem to remember it being "Super Tacos" in the plural. And there does seem to be some Google backup for this impression: ,

                                Hungrycomposer, if looking for the plural or non-plural version of the truck is too confusing, just look for the words "Sobre Ruedas" emblazoned on the truck. Don't think any other taco truck uses that in their name in NYC.

                                1. re: cimui

                                  Forgive my lack of clarity --- I am starting to type faster than I think. I meant to ask if the name of the truck was not "Super Tacos," rather than "Sobre Ruedas." It might perhaps be that I'd never noticed "Sobre Ruedas" emblazoned on the side of the truck after latching onto the English name.

                          2. re: cimui

                            FWIW, al pastor is not slow-roasted. It's spit-grilled, so it requires a cut of meat with a decent of amount of fat to give it texture and flavor with quick cooking. It's basically Mexican shawarma. That's a really bad sign if they're keeping it hot on a grill, like those halal carts with the pile of meat on the side of the flat grill. I haven't tried the Sobre Ruedas truck, but if the El Idolo truck is anything like its other truck in Queens (Roosevelt/103rd), it's OK; nothing to go out of your way for. Neither is Super Taco on 96th. Both represent to me the standard middling Mexican that I can find just about anywhere in Queens/Brooklyn.

                            1. re: E Eto

                              I equate slow roasting on a spit with what you call spit grilled. Perhaps I'm being fast and loose with the term, but I think both involve exposure to direct heat. How are they different?

                              Sorry you don't like Sobre Ruedas (it's the same thing as the Super Tacos truck). I think it's usually quite good for Manhattan. I guess everything is always better in Queens and Brooklyn, but the OP asked about Manhattan and alas, here we are.

                              I'd love to hear what your picks are for this borough.

                              1. re: cimui

                                I'd probably say Taco Mix, but I haven't been there in a while. Al pastor and other good Mexican is available where I live in Queens, so I don't have to venture very far for it.

                          3. re: hungrycomposer

                            fyi nationally pork is 3rd behind chicken and beef in terms of total meat consumed, so its not just NY, but rather an American thing

                            based on alot of my friends tastes this doesn't surprise me (i'm american and pork is probably my favorite meat, but i didn't really grow up eating american food so i don't think i'm the avg consumer); alot of them have an inherent bias against pork they either think its a) unhealthy (fallacy depending upon which part of the pig you're eating) or b) its dirty.

                            1. re: Lau

                              I've migrated from beef in my youth to pork in adulthood and there's no looking back. I fly the flag of the pig.

                        2. Tulcingo Del Valle, but I think you'll be happier with a torta (swap sliced avocado for their insipid guacamole).

                          1. Hey, maybe it would be helpful to you to explain what you mean by "best". Do you require that the pork be spit roasted? Do you have to have pineapple and homemade tortillas? Do you like / mind 'gringo' additions like lettuce?

                            Sorry, I don't mean to be obnoxious in throwing these questions back at you, but the word "best" means so many different things to different people!

                            Anyway, for whatever it's worth, my favorite tacos al pastor are (like a_and_w) from Tulcingo del Valle and Noche Mexicana, where the pork is really tender and is cooked with bits of pineapple. I don't remember seeing a spit at either place, though someone in this older thread claims that they saw one at Tulcingo:

                            Both places just use plain ol' store-bought tortillas.

                            [Grain of salt: I haven't eaten at many places in the East Village and I know there are supposed to be a number of good Mexican / taco places in that nabe.]

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cimui

                              Good point. Thus far, I enjoy Pinche Tacqueria because the meat is tasty and they have a nice corn tortilla. Was just wondering if there were others that I should try. Comments thus far have been extremely helpful. I should have re-worded and said, "What are other good options?" Thanks.

                              1. re: cimui

                                As I noted in the thread cimui linked, I've seen the spit at Tulcingo, but that was six(!) years ago.

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  Ah, sorry -- I didn't mean to call you just any old "someone". :)