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Jul 8, 2005 04:02 PM

Ooo… Fire: REAL El Pastor Tacos at Vermont/Venice

  • d

I caught my first glimse of the fire a few months ago after a dinner at Yongsusan… Driving down Vermont, headed towards the freeway, I saw a shooting flame rise up from the sidewalk… then I saw the crowd… In that neighborhood, I knew it could only be one thing… REAL Al Pastor… But I kept driving, I was stuffed from the Korean feast and, my ‘hobby’ has me near UTLA every few months, so I knew I would return … I just held out hope that those crowds would return every night and that the flame would still be lit until then…

Last night, at 9:30pm, I was driving down Vermont, crossing Venice and to my right, I once again saw that beautiful flame.

The best way to describe the set up, it’s a Taco Table. Two long folding tables, one with the cooking area, and the other FULL of tubs of Salsas and Condiments. The table is set up with two cooks… once who does most of the slicing of the meats, another who handled the tortillas. The selection of meats is very large (Asada, Tripas, Buche, Lengua), most of them cooked in a large round heating element that looks like a hub cap. It has a dome in the center where the ‘grilling’ is done, and then all the juices run off to a resevior to the side where all the braising is done, so the meat becomes tender and flavorful. Also bobbing in this flavorful stew are onions, soft and cooked all the way though. Be SURE to ask for one and they will slice it up and place it on top of your tacos… The BEST condiment for them imaginable. My favorite meat cooked in this type of set up is Lengua, but sadly, he was out! Gahh!! So I ordered some Asada instead to see how it matched us to the grilled perfection that comes out of la Oaxaquena’s Taco Truck…

Then, I caught a look of the great El Pastor Spit. It looked totally home made! The basket was FULL of flaming charcoal and they let the RICHLY marinated meat just rest on it so it got all charry and crispy! He had some already sliced in a container that is also full of flavorful drippings so it’s amazingly moist and tender.

The tacos are small, standard Mexican Taco Stand Size, two tortillas and a dollar each. They let you just LOAD Up with salsas (Red, Green and Avocado) and all manner of condiments). Again, be SURE to ask for an Onion and if you are a fire eater like me, a grilled Jalapeno. This is strictly a Taco Table, no tortas, no burritos, etc… Just tacos. Also, canned drinks are available, sadly no Mexican Coke…

As for the taste… The El Pastor was FANTASTIC… Best I’ve had in L.A. The Asada was good too… But not the rich, charry asada that I like from la Oaxaquena or even better, my uncle’s grill… Still, if next time (OH! There will be a next time!) they run out of Lengua again, I’ll definably order it. And again, you must get the grilled/boiled onion… it adds just SO much wornderful flavor and texture… I could eat tacos made from just that!!

Again, this is a nighttime set up, on Vermont, by Venice… Just look for the fire…


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  1. Nice report Dommy! I will definitely give it a try.

    1. p
      Professor Salt

      I've tried this place once. Forced room for one taco after a Friday night of eating in Koreatown because the flames lured me in as well. The reservoir you mention is a little scary looking, with odd bits of meat stewing slowly away in a dark umber liquid the color of a dank New Jersy bog.

      However, get over the Toxic Avenger flashbacks, and pick yourself a piece of meat. I chose chorizo. For something that had been stewing away, it had a great charry crunch, good meaty flavors, and very little grease. I suspect they were well seared over the flames, then sat in the juices where they lost their greasiness, and were in the perfect state when I got them.

      Next time I'll leave more room and will try the pastor & lengua.

      If it's the same guys Dommy wrote about, it's set up in the driveway of a business on the west side of Vermont, about 200 yards south of Venice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Professor Salt

        We should change our name to Chow-moths! :) It sounds like the place, I saw the Chorizos and they did indeed look tasty... But I LOVE to load my tacos with salsa and condiments, so the traditional meats I think are best to that... And if you've never had lengua made in that little hubcap thingie (I usually get mine at the Taco Table near my grandmother's house by USC), then you are in for a TREAT. I call it meat sushi because it just melts as soon as it hits your tongue.... hmmm...