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Al Pastor Spit Spotted - Melrose and Manhattan Place

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While driving to the Greek last night, about 6:30, I saw what looked to be a fairly elaborate taco table-truck being set-up @ the 100% Hand Car Wash.

The guy setting it up was putting out really large tubs/vats of salsas and condiments that -- in some way I can't quite define, even from far away - appreared to have been made with more TLC than the average. And a large al pastor Trompo was also on view.

Anyone know about the quality? Is it really special, or was I just ravenous transporting my Mozza2Go packages to the Greek?

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  1. The al pastor spit that is supposed to be fantastic is at Tacos Leo on the N/W corner of LaBrea and Venice. I went about a month ago after reading about it on the revived "Great Taco Hunt" blog. Got there about 8:30 on a Saturday eve and found a bit of a line. Ordered 3 al pastor tacos and they were good, also cheap at a buck apiece. But they were the ruddy reddish spiced version as if prepared on a griddle, not cut from a rotisserie spit. Lots of happy people around but I gotta say I was a bit let down. Was I too early? The pineapple was cool and untouched by any flame, no caramelization, like it was added on from a cooler. There has been some discussion over the months about the authorities shutting down the spit.

    Any current info? Do I have to go later?

    13 Replies
    1. re: nosh

      So you didn't see a spit? I haven't been in LA for about 2 yrs, but Tacos Leo was one of my favorites (along with Tacos Tamix - who also has a spit), due to their incredible al pastor. The spit - sitting outside the truck - had a huge chunk of meat rotating with a pineapple on top, and tacos were cut right off the spit.

      Would be very sad if the authorities shut down the spit as I was planning on going here right after I land on Saturday...

      1. re: mdpilam

        What time do you plan on getting there? I am very interested in your report...

        1. re: mdpilam

          according to Leo's FB page they're relaunching their "big truck" on Sunday, so please postpone by one day or you might be disappointed.

        2. re: nosh

          If it didn't come off a spit into a tortilla into your mouth then something is terribly wrong

          1. re: ns1

            They don't have a permit to use one so it comes out late to avoid being fined...

            1. re: TripleAxel

              yeah i'm not surprised. sounds legit.

              1. re: ns1

                I'll hit it up after dinner at Provid. And Marino.

              2. re: TripleAxel

                Is "al pastor" beef or pork ???

                Because the website states "pastor" as beef.

                Anyone have any first hand personal knowledge on the matter ??????

                Thanks guys.

                1. re: kevin

                  pork

                  1. re: ns1

                    Hmmmm

                    Why does the website say beef ???

                    The website is Chiquis, right ??????

                    1. re: kevin

                      I don't know what the website says, but I can tell you that al pastor everywhere is pork. There is zero percent chance that the meat served off the trompo is beef.

                      1. re: ns1

                        That's what I thought.

                        Must have just been a fucking typo.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Absolutely none of their intended customer base would ever need to ask that question, so it really doesn't matter what they spell out (in English, no less) on the menu.

                          Mr Taster

          2. I went last night after the Dodger game and this place was REALLY, REALLY great. One of the best taco stands and salsa bars I have see. The salsas included the usuals as well as a bunch of blistered, whole, warm, both green and red, chunky whole chili peppers.

            The al pastor was fantastic -- carved right of the trompo and then, with a flourish, a little pineapple is nipped off the top and launched from the knife, through the air, into the taco man's waiting non-knife hand, holding the taco. The Dodger's were good last night, very good - but that was the best catching I saw all evening.

            The birria and cabeza were also first rate.

            Really would love to hear if other hounds know of, and what y'all think of, this place. I had the feeling it has been there for about 6 months.

            46 Replies
            1. re: Ciao Bob

              How much were the al pastor tacos? (At Tacos Leo -- La Brea and Venice -- they are a buck.)

              1. re: nosh

                Same. Been to Tacos Leo (but no spit the weeknight I went) and niether the tacos nor the salsa bar were anything special. The cute cat's eyes of the truck and the location were the only things to recommend it, IMHO.

                1. re: Ciao Bob

                  no spit = not tacos leo.

                  tacos leo's spit = the next sergio. call first to make sure the spit is out.

                  1. re: ns1

                    I've been to Tacos Leo during the week when there was no spit. The al pastor came from inside the truck, and it was terrible by comparison. A far cry from what they do on weekends, and ever further away from the Manhattan Pl trompo.

                    Mr Taster

                  2. re: Ciao Bob

                    Ciao Bob, Regarding Tacos Leo, I remember Bandini saying that Tacos Leo had problems with the health Inspector over their al pastor spit. Bandini said no inspectors were around weekends. So Tacos Leo operated an al pastor spit on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but no al pastor spit on weekdays.

                    http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...

                    http://www.greattacohunt.com/2011/12/...

                2. re: Ciao Bob

                  Thanks for posting about this truck! I've been meaning to for a little while since I've had nothing but great pastor tacos carved off the trompo here. Haven't tried the other meats you mentioned, but I will soon. The asada and pollo are not bad, but I usually load up on the pastor. You're right on about all the condiments/toppings laid out, and I especially like the sauteed onions. Another nice touch is the tables and canopies set up, making it one of the most comfortable taco truck experiences I've found.

                  I believe their name is Chiquis? re: price of the tacos, I think $1.25.

                  re: Tacos Leo, I think their spit is only out Friday-Sunday? Not totally sure about Chiquis, though.

                  1. re: mikeop34

                    << sauteed onions>>
                    Those onions -- and the blistered chilies -- clinched it for me as the best taco truck/table/stand I have been to in recent memory.

                    The asada was a little dry and under flavored; but to be fair I only tried it for completeness sake, so it came AFTER the superb birria, cabeza and al pastor. I suspect a steak at Mastro's would be equally dry and under flavored after those!

                    1. re: mikeop34

                      I saw Chiquis trompo being set up on a Thursday evening last week.
                      .

                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                        Good to know, glad there's a non-weekend option! And yeah, I hear you about the asada, something I like to try and compare at various places, but it sounds like there are other things try here.

                        1. re: Ciao Bob

                          Bob, do you know if they're still setting up the trompo on Thursdays?

                          Any updates would be most welcome, as their website is, uhm, sparse.

                          http://www.chiquistacos.com/

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            I do not - I was happy to see your post from 8/7/13 that they were back @Melrose and Manhattan Pl...IIRC, a previous thread indicated they had moved but your post sounded like it was back.

                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                              Weird.

                              The website does not mention the "al pastor" tacos, unless pastor means beef. And I always thought it was pork ?????

                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                I ride that stretch of road all the time, as it's midway between my house and my access to the 101, and I never noticed the truck went missing. (I had actually noticed the truck for several weeks before you originally posted on it.)

                                I'm going to check it out tomorrow evening and will report back.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  It's here!

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    :)

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      And still up to snuff?

                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                        Spectacular

                                        They were out of the blistered jalapenos and sauteed onions when we arrived, so missed them on the 1st round. But they were back in force by the time we ordered our second round, hot off the griddle.

                                        First round was 10 tacos and 2 horchata for $15.50. Our westside friends nearly fell on the floor-- they thought a mistake had been made. Ah, white people.

                                        The table & chairs, while unnecessary, really cinches the deal. It adds a level of comfort to the whole experience that is a really nice touch.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          "A quintessential LA experience."

                                          100% truth right here.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            Thursday is the new weekend. Great news.

                                            More importantly, did you get whited on the piña on Thursday?

                                            1. re: TonyC

                                              THERE WAS NO PINA. At all. Just a naked spike. (That's my new nickname)

                                              Mr "Naked Spike" Taster

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                WTF!??!?!

                                                1. re: ns1

                                                  uhhh... that's like spinning al pastor middle finger.

                                                  This is a travesty/tragedy, especially when they spend so much $ on the salsa bar + blistered peppers. I don't think I want to start BYOP.

                                                  1. re: TonyC

                                                    Would I have liked the pineapple?

                                                    Yes.

                                                    Did it stop me from enjoying six (7, after horking one from my wife's plate) delicious al pastor tacos, garnished with an ever changing combination of roasted jalapenos, salsas, griddled onions, raw onion & cilantro, pico de gallo, pickled onions and carrots, etc.?

                                                    No treifing way

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      No treifing. Hahaha.

                                          2. re: Ciao Bob

                                            That's what I'd like to know.

                                            Bob, you seem to be the first responder on the scene to unearth these gems.

                                            :)

                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                      It's also weird.

                                      The website does not mention the "al pastor" tacos, unless pastor means beef. And I always thought it was pork ?????

                                2. re: Ciao Bob

                                  >> I had the feeling it has been there for about 6 months.

                                  That's about right. I drive that stretch of Melrose several times a week and I've been seeing it there for about that long. It's hard to miss with the big festive, bright white lights strung up around the truck; it feels like a party. I drove past it last night on my way home from SGV and noticed the al pastor spit for the first time. I wonder if it's there all the time, or only on the weekend (like Tacos Leo appears to be? I had an extremely disappointing mid-week al pastor at Tacos Leo.) I saw aguas on the other end of the truck, opposite the spit. Anyway, I'm glad to hear a positive report on the place.

                                  My top al pastor (so far) was from a vendor in the "food court" area in the southern half of the Alameda Swap Meet. There are several there, but only one had the deep mahogany and char (along with roasted pineapple) that signifies greatness. Leo has always left me hanging a little bit short... as the other posted stated, the pineapple is raw (too high above the meat and heating element to caramelize) and while pretty and tasty, the meat lacks the profound depth of flavor that the one at Alameda Swap Meet had.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    wait, does the pina at the ASM al pastor stand sit directly on top of the meat?

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      OK now that you're testing me on it, I can't swear to the pineapple. I try not to let my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for a place affect my reportage but I failed here.

                                      However, I absolutely do remember the beautiful mahogany color of the meat, and a deep flavor. It's the al pastor of my dreams.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        The pineapple at the Melrose stand is NOT highly cooked down and carmelized - it sits several inches above the pork, so it is just warmed by the cooking (and, I suppose, then cooled by it's air-flight through the night air, into the steaming taco).

                                        1. re: Ciao Bob

                                          I think this is the pic we are looking for:

                                          http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/xMTY_o...

                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                          Pineapple tease. Will go hunt these down.

                                          It's interesting Alameda Swapmeet has such memorable al pastor. Kinda like Vineland Swapmeet had really outstanding charcoal grilled carne asada (years before Mexicali had a stand).

                                          1. re: TonyC

                                            Tony, I do hope your experience turns out to be as memorable as mine. It's been about two years for me. Why the wait? Hell, there's just too much delicious food in LA, and Alameda isn't exactly on the way to anywhere I usually go.

                                            Mr Taster

                                        3. re: TonyC

                                          I can't swear to it, as it's been a while since I've been, but this could be the trompo I'm thinking of. (There were at least two different al pastor businesses in the food court area of ASW on my last visit.)

                                          http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/12dTiN...

                                          Mr Taster

                                      2. re: Ciao Bob

                                        Thanks for the trompo tip, Ciao Bob. Driven by the stand a buncha times and didn't spot the al pastor. You were right about the salsa bar. The aromatic grilled onions + habanero salsa + roasted jalapenos put these into Guisado territory. The drunken Latinas back from partying in Hollywood were a bonus touch.

                                        Chiquis Tacos is fantastic and worth that $0.25 over Leo.

                                        Also, attached photo for LOLz.

                                         
                                        1. re: TonyC

                                          thanks for the follow-up. Gotta check it out. Way closer than Leo's. Anyone know the hours?

                                          1. re: ns1

                                            yeah so i did my houndly duty today;

                                            http://www.yelp.com/biz/chiquis-tacos...

                                            I got 2 tacos al pastor. Al pastor is nicely charred. Couldn't find the rhyme or reason to his method - some tacos he cut off straight from the tromp onto the tacos, other were sliced onto a hotplate then onto the grill for extra char.

                                            tortillas were standard but griddled nicely. they were pretty damn good, but once again WTF happened to my pineapple? I saw pineapple go on a couple of others, but not mine and not on my friends.

                                            So pretty damn good, but I'd like a proper al pastor taco with pineapple next time please.

                                            By the way, it was the 3rd of a 3 taco stop - mexicali, guisado, chiquis. I liked chiquis the best, and only 1.25 each.

                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                            1. re: ns1

                                              Did you ask for it?

                                              I don't speak Spanish week, but I could warble out a "poquito pina por favor" ;-)

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                I didn't realize I would have to ask.

                                                1. re: ns1

                                                  you got whited. never had to ask here.

                                                  I'm sad Chiquis didn't make it into LATACO's taco madness 2013.

                                                  1. re: TonyC

                                                    "you got whited. never had to ask here."

                                                    *cries*. It was cuz I was with a buddy who asked "WHAT IS THAT ON TOP" cuz he thought it was butter and wouldn't believe me when I said it was pineapple.

                                                    Or maybe it was cuz I was taking pictures with my phone. Beats me :(

                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                      "...I was with a buddy who asked "WHAT IS THAT ON TOP" cuz he thought it was butter..."

                                                      Butter is only found on top of the trompo at Ruth's Chris...

                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                        You know I had a dream about that this morning - what would a beef shwarma taste like if you topped it with butter, a la Ruth's Chris.

                                                        1. re: ns1

                                                          it would probably taste pretty damn good.

                                          2. re: TonyC

                                            Glad you enjoyed it, Tony. It is really, really good.

                                          3. re: Ciao Bob

                                            Not the greatest picture...but it does give you and idea of those blistered peppers.

                                             
                                          4. yes! Chiquis Tacos al pastor was better for me than Leos. Tried both within last couple of weeks.

                                            1. Does anyone have any idea of their hours? Are they open weeknights? They are just off the 101 and would be a perfect place to stop on the way home to the valley after theater or a concert downtown.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Jwsel

                                                During the week they are open until either midnight or two am every night. For Fri/Sat it is open two hours later (either 2 or 4am, can't remember which).
                                                The salsa/toppings are always well stocked. I usually get the al pastor tacos and have never had a case of missing pineapple with mine.

                                                1. re: emp2b3

                                                  I haven't seen the trompo our on weeknights.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: emp2b3

                                                    Did you have to ask for it? Lol

                                                2. Do you by any chance know what happened to this place? We've gone twice now & it's not there anymore. Do you happen to have a card number so I can call and find out where they moved to?

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: Kiimduuh

                                                    I see that there is a more recent report on a truck of the same name on Yelp at a different location: http://www.yelp.com/biz/chiquis-tacos... Don't know if this is the same truck or not, but you can go by and see. If you do find it, either here or somewhere else I hope you'll come back to this thread and let everyone know.

                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                      Indeed, it does look like they moved - the spit, peppers and truck images on yelp appear to be the same truck - new locale. SERVORG - how did you make that connection? UNCANNY!

                                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                        The "holy" Google, up in the cloud above, answers all prayers...if posed in exactly the right way that is... (g)

                                                      2. re: Servorg

                                                        I'm confused now. there are yelp reviews from September of last year saying that they are now in Santa Monica and Vine (new location) but i've been to the original location on Melrose and Manhattan Pl. as recent as a few months ago and they were still there. Either they are operating 2 trucks or they are two different trucks.

                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                          Did anyone ever figure out their schedule or if they are actually parked at the Washington & Arlington corner from time to time? Drove by Melrose and Manhattan on Friday and Saturday, and wasn't there both times. Need my Al Pastor fix!

                                                          1. re: andytseng

                                                            One thing I've noticed is that sometimes I see a truck parked deep inside the car wash lot, with the al pastor spit facing Melrose Ave, and sometimes its parked closer to the street with the spit facing inside, hidden away from street view. (I've wondered what the reason for this is.) I'm not sure if these are the same trucks or not, but I've had al pastor from the truck facing both directions.

                                                            Mr Taster

                                                        2. re: Kiimduuh

                                                          I've driven by a couple times recently, and it looked like it was a different truck there - a yellow truck, not white, and with no name. BUT driving by tonight, the setup looked like the same as before - al pastor spit outside, tented seating area, tubs of toppings/salsas - although still with the yellow, nameless truck. I hope to try it soon and figure out the mystery.

                                                          1. re: mikeop34

                                                            I finally stopped by with visiting Wash DC hound Steve and his son. Good lord, this was spectacular stuff. The guy running the trompo knew his stuff. He spun the spit to expose the freshly browned al pastor, carved it off the spit and directly onto the griddle for final browning, and then threw some of the already-warming tortillas on top of the griddled meat for the last few seconds to infuse the pastor steam and juice into the tortilla.

                                                            By the way, it looked like nobody was getting the pineapple (and we were the only non-latinos there) so I'm not sure about this "whited" business. On taco round 2 I asked the guy "senor, poquita pina por favor" and he gladly obliged. The al pastor was gorgeously charred with that deep mahogany color and richly flavored meat. Steve and his son looked as if they were physically transitioning into another plane of existence, each bite phasing out of existence into taco nirvana, only to come back from oblivion to take another taste.

                                                            Al pastor truck on Melrose and Manhattan Place, I love you.

                                                            By the way, they have an impressive lineup of salsas and garnishes-- a rojo, verde, and what I think is probably a habanero salsa, as well as the pickled onions/carrots, diced onion, sliced radishes, julienned cilantro (really nicely shredded), and the more unusual caramelized onions and whole jalapenos covered with a crystalline powder.... I wish I had tasted one, but I was lost in the meat.

                                                            Go, now.

                                                            Mr Taster

                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                              "By the way, it looked like nobody was getting the pineapple (and we were the only non-latinos there) so I'm not sure about this "whited" business."

                                                              Well I feel slightly less stereotyped now.

                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                so it's still on that corner, and what's the nearest major cross street near manhattan place ? for some reason it doesn't really ring a bell.

                                                                and what hours ????

                                                                cash only, im presuming ?

                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  It's just a block west of Western, on the South side of Melrose. It's only there after the car wash closes, but I'm not sure exactly when that is. By 8 it's already there, maybe earlier?

                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                    I believe it is open until around midnight or a little later during the week and until at least 2am on the weekends. It is on the South side of Melrose just West of Western Ave in the parking lot of a large carwash so it should be easy to find.