A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 26, 2007
Al Pastor (Cabrito Al Pastor; Carne Al Pastor; Tacos Al Pastor)

"Al pastor” means “shepherd style,” a term originating in northern Mexico. “Al pastor” is meat carved from a vertical spit, often seaoned with pineapple, onions, cilantro and lime.

“Carne al pastor” (marinated pork) is cited in Spanish from at least 1903. “Cabrito al pastor” (goat) was first served in Texas in the 1940s. “Tacos al pastor” was served in Texas by the 1970s, but became a popular dish (especially in Austin) by the 1990s. “Tacos al pastor” are also called “Tacos de Trompo” and “Tacos Arabes.”


Wikipedia: Al pastor
Al pastor, literally meaning “Shepherd Style”, is a dish developed in Mexico City likely as a result of the adoption of spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants. The dish is similar to the Turkish döner kebab, Shawarma, or Greek gyros.

Preparation
Usually pork, it is marinated with a blend of different spices and herbs, and then slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie called a Trompo (lit: spinning top), often with a pineapple on top. When ready, the meat is then thinly sliced off the spit with a large knife. It can be served with small tortillas, onions, pineapple, cilantro and lime. It is also a common ingredient in tacos, burritos, and tortas.

Popularity
Tacos al pastor, although less widely available than other styles in fusion Mexican cuisine, are one of the most popular tacos served in Taquerias both in Mexico and US latino neighborhoods.

In some places in Northern Mexico, like Nuevo Leon, these are usually called Tacos de Trompo.

Everything2.com
tacos al pastor
A Mexican delicacy, invented some thirty years ago in Mexico City. Tacos al pastor are invariably eaten in a restaurant, because to make them you need a vertical broiler, which nobody has at home.

The meat is pork, seasoned with red stuff that I assume to be achiote. Slice upon slice of meat is impaled upon the vertical spit, which is then topped with a whole pineapple and occasionally an onion.
The spit is then mounted in the vertical broiler, and the cooking process begins. As the outer layer of the huge ball of meat (it is actually called la bola) roasts, the cook (actually a specialized guy, called el pastorero) trims off the cooked bits and collects them in something that resembles a dustpan.

The complete taco employs tortillitas: the pastorero dips briefly the tortillita in the drip pan (didn’t I mention that the meat is quite fatty and releases large amounts of fat ?), slices off meat on the tortillita, slashes at the pineapple (which is also cooking) and catches the falling slice with the tortillita. The taco is then served with raw chopped onion, cilantro, hot sauce, and lime. Since the individual taco is quite small, you can easily eat five. Or ten. Especially if you are drinking Negra Modelo.

One of the best places for tacos al pastor in Mexico City is called El Tizoncito, and it is actually a local mini-chain of restaurants. Also very good is El rincón de la lechuza on Miguel Angel de Quevedo. Another tasty one is Charly II on Av. San Fernando in Tlalpan.

Taco Journalism
Wednesday, May 23, 2005
Austin Chronicle’s “Best of” Taco Trucks - Round One
(...)
Tacos Al Pastor
Location - 1911 E. Riverside Austin, TX 78741
Cornbiter and myself had a tough time finding this inconspicuous little joint tucked in front of one of many shopping centers on E Riverside. The truck looked innocent enough, no real signage or prices displayed with a nice lineup of jarritos sodas and mexican cokes.

I ordered two pastors on corn with cilantro and onion served with an extremely spicy/tasty salsa verde. The salsa made its way up your mouth nicely and had a long and strong finish. Now let me let you in on something, Belinda Carlisle must have been talking about Tacos Al Pastor when she wrote ‘Heaven is a place on Earth.” These taco’s rocked! The pastor was diced coarsely and the meat, which consisted of both charred and moist pork, was seasoned perfectly. There was a taste explosion in every bite. Chase it all down with a mexican coke and Cornbiter D and myself were in Taco Heaven.

If you are still reading this I hope it is on your cell phone while you barrel down I-35 on you way to this place, not to be missed.
Tacos Al Pastor - 5 1/2 stars- jarod

Google Books
Anales Del Institute Medico Nacional
by Mexico Instituto Medico-Nacional
1903
Pg. 345:
Durante la lluvia, se nos preparó la comida, que fué carne al pastor, de un carnero que se sacrificó al llegar nosotros, y además chile y frijoles;... 

Google Books
La raza cósmica: Misión de la Raza Iberoamericana
by Jose Vasconcelos
Agencia mundial de libreria
1927
Pg. 191:
...largo y estirado sobre tres palos enterrados en el suelo, encima de las brasas ardientes; se llama allá lo mismo que entre nosotros: cabrito al pastor…

7 April 1948, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
EL OASIS
Restaurant and Bar
Front of the Market Square
West Side
MATAMOROS
Ribs and Cabrito (Al Pastor)
Best Mexican Food
Roberto Guerra, Owner

Google Books
Modern Mexico (Mexico Modern)
Mexican Chamber of Commerce
1950
Pg. 12:
... especially on Saturday nights and Sundays; and he should give 1n to the advertisements of cabrito al pastor (roast kid), Monterrey’s most typical dish. 

31 December 1950, Brownsville (TX) Herald, “Matamoros-Victoria Highway Short Route To Mexico City,” pg. 14A, col. 1:
Among its tourist attractions San Franando has little to offer except its quaint plaza, located right in the heart of the city, an old church, and its genuine Mexican dishes such as cabrito en sangre, cabrito asado, cabrito al pastor, agujitas, and its famed machacado con heuvo (an omelet made from dried beef and scrambled eggs). Its dried beef (carne seca) is famed throughout Tamaulipas and in some parts of Mexico. Cattle are butchered and the meat is salted (and sometimes spiced) and hung out in the sun to dry. Cabrito en sangre is meat from a kid cooked in its own blood. The dish is spiced with oregano, cominos, mejorana and other fragrant and tasteful herbs which give it a delicious flavor and a tang all its own. Cabrito asado is broiled kid meat. Cabrito al pastor is kid meat broiled over an open fire, usually on a spit. Agujitas are spare ribs broiled over charcoal embers.

16 March 1957, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 8, col. 7 ad:
JASMER’S DRIVE INN
3839 W. COMMERCE
CABRITO AL PASTOR
MEXICAN DINNERS

20 April 1957, San Antonio (TX) Light, “Cabrito Treat at New Jasmer’s Drive Inn Cafe,” pg. 8, cols. 2-3:
A dining treat not often encountered outside northern Mexico is now available to San Antonians at Jasmer’s restaurant and drive-in, 3639 W. Commerce st.

This newest and most comfortable establishment of its kind features cabrito al pastor, an incomparable piece de resistance which may require a bit of explaining to the uninitiated. Cabrito, in Spanish and in the interpretation of the owner of Jasmer’s, means kid or young goat and “young” refers to the brief life span of the goat, not the comparative age in terms of elephant years.

“Al pastor” means, roughly, “like a shepherd,” or prepared, with some refinements, in the manner in which it has been prepared by sheep herders through hundreds of years on the plains and in the mountains of Mexico.

Broiled on a spit over hot coals, cabrito becomes one of the real delicacies of all meats. It is this regional Mexican food which is attracting crowds to Jasmer’s, together with sandwiches and short orders with more familiar sounding names.

19 March 1960, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 8, col. 5 ad:
Mario’s Restuarant
325 So. Pecos St.
Specializing in
“Cabrito Al Pastor”
“BILLY GOAT COOKED IN A PIT
OLD MEXICAN STYLE”

7 May 1960, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 2, col. 7 ad:
Direct from Monterey’s “Los Arcos Cafe” and introducing for the first time to the SOuthwest area “Mexico’s Widely Known”
“CABRITO AL PASTOR”
Young kid with it’s open hearth, cooked-in falvor—see it cooked before your eyes.
(...)
El Sarape
1001 Ave. C

8 February 1963, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 10, col. 1 ad:
CAMERON PARK
DRIVE-INN
Cabrito Al Pastor
Tacos & Tamales

9 April 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Cabrito al Pastor Is Favored Entree” by Frank X. Tolbert, section A, pg. 37:
CABRITO is the favorite entree of most folks on both shores of the Rio Grande along the Texas-Mexico border. Cabrito signifies unweaned goat kid either broiled, fried, or roasted.
The best is cabrito al pastor, meaning prepared farm or ranchero style over coals and open flame. And the very best cabrito al pastor which I had in my current wanderings along these borders was at a modern restaurant called El Rancho Grande in Ciudad Miguel Aleman, formerly San Pedro de Roma (or St. Peter of Rome) across the Rio Grande from the architecturally impressive City of Roma, Texas.
(...)
While we were in Ciudad Camargo, a cathedral town several miles inboard from the Rio Grande but opposite Rio Grande City, Mr. Boyle pointed out a small cafe called the Alamo which he said often produces a cabrito al pastor even superior to that in the Migeul Alaman restaurant.

“The reason may be is that the cooks at the Alamo are specialists. Nothing but cabrito al pastor is served there,” said George Boyle, a native of San Benito, Texas, and a man with a good command of Spanish.

I’ll have a report on Alamo next in my “gastronomical tours.” And I also hope to sample a Matamoros (the big city across river from Brownsville) cafe called Los Nortenos which serves nothing but cabrito al pastor with a few condiments.

5 April 1964, San Antonio (TX) Express and News, entertainment section, pg. 6, col. 3 ad:
CABRITO AL PASTOR
Guacamole Salad, Refried Beans, Coffee of Iced Tea ... $1.50
THE PAN-AMERICAN RESTAURANT
720 Pleasanton Rd.
OUR TWENTY-FIFTH YEAR SPECIALIZING IN ORIGINAL MEXICAN FOODS

Google Books
Fly Down, Drive Mexico
by David Dodge
New York, NY: Macmillan
1968
Pg. 135:
Cabrito al pastor tastes pretty much like what it is; plain old grilled goat.
Nobody, gringo or mexicano, ever ate birria without coming back for more. 

17 June 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “A Bouncing Bridge to Miguel Aleman” by Frank X. Tolbert, section A, pg. 23:
The restaurant in Cuidad Miguel Aleman has a big menu, from frog legs and quail to steak, although the specialty is cabrito, broiled in an open pit over mesquite knot coals. In contrast, Senor Saenz’s establishment in Camargo serves nothing but cabrito al pastor, also barbecued over the open pit, and sometimes served “on a stick” to those who want to take out.

29 August 1972, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “About Restaurants on Tex-Mex Border” by Frank X. Tolbert, section A, pg. 17:
The Moderno has acceptable cabrito, yet it’s not the classic cabrito al pastor, cooked over an open hearth such as you can get for half the price at such smaller cafes as El Rancho Grande and Waldorf (not kidding) in Ciudad Miguel Aleman, across river from Roma, Texas.

3 March 1976, Port Arthur (TX) News, “La Iguana Restaurant prepares food in tradition of Mexico,” pg. 31, col. 4:
La Iguana is the only restaurant of its kind that sells “Cooked over charcoal” cabrito al pastor (bar-b-que Lamb), carnitas (prime pork), tacos al carbon (beef & pork steaks that are spiced & broiled), carnes asadas ahujitas (broiled steaks), chorizos (sausage), pallitos (roasted chicken), baizas Mexicanas (hot sauce), frijoles a la chana (ranch style beans), homemade tamales y tortillas, also includes a large menu of the most popular Mexican dishes.

2 September 1976, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, pg. 10C, col. 4:
Town Club members ill “visit” Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 11, in celebration of Diez Y Seis. The club’s parking lot will be converted to an authentic village plaza with “puestos” offering cabrito and turkey cooked over an open pit, tacos al pastor, mole con gallina y much, much mas. 

25 October 1977, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 7C, col. 2 photo caption:
TACOS AL PASTOR (on the grill) one of the many types of tacos available in Matamoros, are prepared from a hanging wedge of beef and pork. Put both in a corn tortilla, add onion, tomato, caliander, and salsa. Ten more, please!

27 July 1986, New York (NY) Times, pg. XX14:
Follow them with taco al pastor, a fresh, soft, puffy flour tortilla stuffed with pork, marinated in chili and served with cebolletos (grilled spring onions), and seasoned with cilantro (coriander).
(Old Mexico Grill in Santa Fe, New Mexico—ed.)

23 October 1992, New York (NY) Times, pg. C26:
The delicious burrito al pastor ($9.95) is a neatly folded pouch containing strips of grilled steak, green pepper and onions, carefully topped with a vivid pico de gallo and sour cream.
(Benny’s Burritos—ed.)

Google Books
Mexico on Fifty Dollars a Day, ‘94
by Marita Adair (Frommer’s Staff)
New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing
1993
Pg. 772:
Tacos al pastor Thin slices of flavored pork roasted on a revolving cylinder dripping with onion slices and the juice of a fresh pineapple slice. 

Google Books
Mexico 1995 (Fodor’s)
by Berkeley Travel Staff
Fodor’s Travel Publications
1994
Pg. 57:
The tacos al pastor (marinated pork, onions, and pineapple on a spit) cost about 60e each. 

5 June 1995, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, section 5, pg. 3, col. 2 ad:
CARNE AL PASTOR...Pork meat marinated in Red Sauce. 
(Cesar’s Mexican Food—ed.)

Google Books
A Cook’s Tour of Mexico
by Nancy Zaslavsky
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
1997
Pg. 86:
Monterrey Cabrito al Pastor Restaurant.
Pg. 154:
Tacos al Pastor. Throughout Puebla, storefronts sell this relatively newfangled (possibly fifty years old) Mexican taco,... 

27 April 2003, New York (NY) Times, “Four Mexico City Restaurants That Stay Close to Their Roots” by Mark Bittman, pg. TR6:
Or venture over to La Condesa, the up-and-coming neighborhood reminiscent of the East Village, and stop at El Tizoncito, a joint that offers delicious tacos al pastor, in which a coal-fired vertical oven perfectly browns a gyrolike affair of achiote-laced pork shoulder. The meat is sliced to order and layered into a tiny taco, with a little of its drippings, some chili sauce, a bit of onion and a garnish of deftly cut pineapple. You eat 5 for a snack and 10 for a meal. It’s not elegant, and blessedly it’s not pasta.

Rosita’s Al Pastor - Austin, TX (Yelp)
Nick L.
Austin, TX
4 star rating
05/15/2007
You’ve seen how most taco stands and taquerias in Austin tend to do tacos al pastor: nondescript brown chunks of pork, seemingly stewed-- not cut from a skewer, as should be the norm--and sometimes garnished lightly with chopped pineapples. A pretty reliable, if unspectacular order that generally tastes the same at most places, with the exception of a few outliers.

When I heard about Rosita Al Pastor, a family restaurant tragically tucked away in a massive, unattractive strip mall on the 1900 block of East Riverside, I was intrigued. A restaurant so dedicated to the pursuit of turning out excellent al pastor that they included it in the name? What did this mean for the rest of the menu? Was al pastor all they served, to the neglect of other fine Mexican meats? How could I have driven by this place for years without ever having noticed it?

Well it turns out that Rosita’s offers a full-service menu that features the usual lineup of tortas, tacos (including some damn fine egg and potato), burritos, gorditas, etc. that you can mix and match as you please with assorted meats (I don’t remember seeing carnitas—why is carnitas exceedingly ubiquitous in California and so hard to find in Texas?) However, you would be remiss if you did not pair any of these entrees with Rosita’s crown jewel: smoky, bright red strips of tender, savory pork, bursting with flavor --true al pastor that I’m fairly certain is sliced piping hot off a skewer. Topped with some freshly chopped white onions, cilantro, and Rosita’s house salsa verde, these tacos are pretty much perfect, I think. What’s the secret ingredient that gives the pork that brilliant red zest? Maybe we’ll never know. I’ve only seen al pastor of this hue in Mexico, and come to think of it, chorizo as well. Maybe someone more enlightened can bring me up to speed as to why that is.

On my first visit, I ordered three tacos al pastor on both corn and flour tortillas. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the warm, fluffy texture of the flour tortillas far surpassed the corn tortillas, and I’m usually a corn man. So don’t be afraid to be a gringo and ask for flour...it’s worth it! For what it’s worth, my friend ordered his al pastor on gorditas. I looked wistfully at his plate, as it seemed that he was given a larger portion of meat. Your mileage may vary. My meal came out to less than $6, if I remember correctly.

HornFans.com
hornian
11/16/07 07:20 PM
Re: Best Tacos al pastor in town
I really like the ones at Curras on Oltorf. They mix a little bit of pineapple in there, plus that cilantro and onion stuff, top it with the avacado sauce (its not guacamole, it a sauce), and it’s allsome. Make sure you sub borracho beans. And of course you have to get it on corn tortillas, but that goes without saying.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, November 26, 2007 • Permalink