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. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 03, 2007
Tacos de Trompo (Tacos Arabes)

Tacos de Trompo (also called Tacos Arabes) is another name for Tacos al Pastor. “Trompo” is Spanish for “(spinning) top,” and meat is placed on a “trompo” similarly to the Greek gyro or the Turkish doner kebab. The roasted pork is placed in a taco shell, covered with the usual taco fillings (such as shredded lettuce and tomatoes).
The dish was supposedly first served in the city of Puebla, Mexico, in the 1930s, when an Iraqi immigrant named Jorge Tabe opened an eatery that advertised both “tacos arabes” and “tacos estilo Doneraky.” However, the term “al pastor (shepherd style) pre-dates the 1930s.
The term “tacos al pastor” is used in most parts of Texas, but the term “tacos de trompo” is used in many Houston taquerias. “Tacos Arabes” is less frequently used. In Houston, however, the “trompo” was declared unsanitary because the meat cannot be heated high enough; most Houston “tacos de trompo” now are not made on a “trompo.”
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.
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.
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 of Northern Mexico, such as Nuevo Leon, these are usually called Tacos de Trompo
Mexico Connect
Literally meaning “shepherd’s-style tacos”, these are a Mexican adaptation of Middle-Eastern spit-grilled meat, brought by immigrants from Lebanon. Although originally made with lamb, most are now made with thinly sliced pork, marinated in herbs and spices, and stacked on a vertical spit in the form of a trompo, or “top”, so called because of its resemblance to a child’s toy top, with the narrow end on the bottom and a slice of pineapple at the top. The meat is turned in front of a vertical gas flame, shaved off as the outside gets done, and made into tacos. In Puebla, where there is a large Lebanese population, a variation of this type of taco, served in a thick flour tortilla called pan arabe—a cross between a tortilla and pita bread—is known as tacos arabes. They are served with a spicy, deep-red chipotle-based salsa. 
Mexico Connect
Immigrant Cooking in Mexico
Part 3: The Lebanese of Puebla
© 2007 Karen Hursh Graber
Although the largest group of Mexicans of Lebanese descent lives in Merida, it is in Puebla, with its own rich and complex gastronomic legacy, that Lebanese food became part of the regional culinary repertoire. Influenced by local ingredients, especially chiles, Lebanese cooks in Puebla developed their own unique takes on the food of their homeland.
The traditional spit-roasted meat called shawarma became the filling for tacos arabes, now most frequently made with pork instead of lamb, and marinated in a chile-flavored paste. Rolled in thick wheat tortillas and served with chipotle sauce, they are still clearly recognizable as a version of shawarma, as are tacos al pastor, a variation of tacos arabes in which the meat is roasted with a thick slice of pineapple atop the stack of thinly sliced pork. (The stack of meat is called a trompa, for its resemblance to a toy top, tapering to a narrow bottom.) When served on a corn tortilla instead of pan arabe, they are called tacos orientales. 
Taqueria Taco Palenque (Rosenberg, TX)
Tacos de Trompo
Traditional Mexican style Trompo tacos on five homemade corn tortillas served with picode gallo, guacamole,and Frijoles a la Charra. 
Don Eraki Tacos Arabes
El taco árabe tiene su orígen en la ciudad de Puebla en años 30´s, cuando el señor Jorge Tabe proveniente de Irak, llega a ésta ciudad, y junto con su esposa inician su primer negocio especializado en tacos de carne asada al estilo árabe teniendo un enorme éxito.
Para los años 50´s abrieron un nuevo negocio con el lema ” Tacos estilo Doneraky” , nombre que se fue tranformando en ” Don Eraky”, adquiriendo reconocimeinto por parte de sus clientes.
En 1985 se inaugura la primera taquería en la Ciudad de México, en la Colonia Narvarte, siendo tal su éxito que en 1988 abrió una sucursal en 1998 en Av. Universidad; y dos años más una tercera en Villa Coapa.
Actualmente ” DonEraki” se encuentra en una etapa de expansión, lo que ha permitido captar un mayor número de clientes y difundir el concepto de los tacos árabes, comprobando la enorme aceptación de sus productos y el éxito de su concepto de negocio. 
Google Groups: alt.mexico
Newsgroups: alt.mexico
From: GUZ
Date: 1998/12/16
Subject: Re: al pastor
In article <36748925.6E0EF…@worldnet.att.net>, Clayton Gillespie wrote:
>> Al Pastor is OK for Chilangos in Mexico City, in Monterrey those are known as
>> Tacos de Trompo, After two years I’m still looking for good tacos de Trompo
>> here in US but I had no luck, let me know if you find something.
>I am not familiar with Tacos de Trompo, if that is supposed tobe ‘Trompa’ or
>cheek meat we would call it barbacoa. Personally, I prefer al carbón, but in
>either case I live in El Paso so I have only to walk across a bridge. Even though
>I can see Cd. Juárez from my front door, with a few exceptions Mexican food is
>totally different on either side of the river. I think your only hope is to
>resign yourself to what you have or move.
Tacos al pastor are very diferent from Yucatan to DF or Monterrey. They don’t taste the same because of the ingredients, they vary from place to place. “Tacos al Pastor” are very related to “Tacos de Trompo” but they are not “exactly” the same. In Yucatan they are very spiced and are made of pork.  In DF (sometimes) steaks are laid one upon another in an assorted manner (one of beef… one of pork)all the way to form a big mass of marinated meat (achiote or axiote is one of the ingredients. In Yucatan they use axiote too… in fact… they are the masters of the axiote, and the “adobo” used to marinate this meat is very similar at the one used in “cochinita pibil”). A metallic bar goes through all this meat (named “trompo”) and placed vertically in a kinda’ vertical grill. The “Trompo” spins slowly on its axis (the metallic bar). 2 halfs of onion are placed, one on the top one at the bottom. Most of the “taqueros” use to place a pineapple on the very top. The taco is made of a small corn tortilla warmed right below the droping meat. You can use some lemon and drink “tepache”. 
Google Groups: alt.mexico
Newsgroups: alt.mexico
From: “Colette Abascal”

Date: 1999/02/11
Subject: Re: AL PASTOR
Don’t remind me of Huitlacoche! I love the stuff, spent my whole last pregnancy craving it, without being able to ever get the real mouthwatering stuff! And my husband really misses the Tacos al Pastor and also the Tacos Arabes from Puebla. Don’t talk to me about food, I’ll go crazy until I can get back on a plane to Mexico lindo y querido!!!! 
Google Books
World Food: Mexico
by Bruce Geddes
Lonely Planet
Pg. 25:
Arab influence has also extended to modern Mexico. One of the better known ways of eating tacos is al pastor (shepherd), inspired by the Middle Eastern method of cooking meat on a vertical spit. Tacos Arabes are tacos wrapped in pan arabe, a wheat bread resembling pita but thinner. In fact, a more appropriate name would be tortilla arabe.
New York Times
Northeast of Mexico City, a Market Worth the Climb Into the Mountains
Published: February 8, 2004
SATURDAY afternoons buzz with anticipation in Cuetzalan, a remote town in the Sierra Norte northeast of Mexico City. Vendors, many of them indigenous Totonacs and Nahuas in white homespun garments, are beginning to set up stands for the vibrant Sunday market.
On the concrete terraces above the main church plaza a man sits trimming bunched onions. A young girl picks spines out of fresh cactus paddles (nopales). An ancient woman has already spread her fragrant vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, allspice, coffee and nutmeg on a small table. And another woman slices slivers of seasoned pork onto flour tortillas from a vertical gyro-style spit, adding onions and salsa for delicious soft tacos called tacos arabes. Two pesos buys me a savory tidbit before dinner. 
Google Books
by John Nobel
Lonely Planet
Pg. 90:
More casual specialties from Puebla include taco arabes and (Pg. 91—ed.) cemitas. The former are tacos made with thin, tortilla-like Arab bread and filled with pork that is grilled on huge vertical skewers, then served with jocoque (a type of yoghurt), honey and sometimes herb-infused olive oil.
Houston Press
Tall-Tale Tacos
Is Doneraki famous for its authentic Mexican food or for giving away chile con queso?
By Robb Walsh
Published: September 14, 2006
According to http://www.mexconnect.com and other Mexican food histories, “tacos al pastor” are a “Mexican adaptation of Middle-Eastern spit-grilled meat, brought by immigrants from Lebanon.”
The Mexicans took the vertical roaster, which was carried to Mexico by immigrants from the Middle East, and switched the meat from the traditional, Arab, seasoned ground meat to marinated pork strips layered on the roaster in the shape of a child’s toy top, or trompo, with a piece of pineapple on top. The meat is typically bright red, salty and spicy, with a wonderful fruit flavor from the pineapple. Since the thin strips are shaved from the edge with a sharp knife, the pork comes in very fine pieces.
And I found a chain of restaurants in Mexico called Don Eraki Tacos Arabes. Tacos arabes are Mexican gyro sandwiches. Seasoned ground meat is sliced from a vertical roaster and wrapped in oversize thick flour tortillas called pan arabe, which looks a lot like pita bread.
According to the Mexican Don Eraki’s Web site (http://www.tacosarabes.com.mx), tacos arabes, which are now known as doneraki tacos, were introduced in Puebla in the ‘30s when an Iraqi immigrant named Jorge Tabe opened an eatery that advertised both “tacos arabes” and “tacos estilo Doneraky.” Doner is the Arab word for “gyro meat,” and aki means little in Greek, so doneraki means “little gyro.”
Houston Press
Top Tacos
Mexican “tacos de trompo” are getting hard to find because the Health Department says they’re illegal
By Robb Walsh
Published: September 21, 2006
Trompo is the Spanish word for the child’s toy we call a top. In the parlance of taquerias, a trompo is a stout metal skewer loaded up with strips of marinated pork cut in a rounded shape. The meat is narrow at the bottom and gets thicker higher up, forming the shape of a top. When the trompo revolves on a vertical roaster, the pork is cooked on the outside edges. When you order a taco, the cooked meat is shaved off, then grilled until it’s crispy. It’s then used to make tacos al pastor (a.k.a. tacos de trompo) and other treats. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Gyro meat, the seasoned ground beef and lamb that turns on a metal rod in front of a heating element in Middle Eastern restaurants, is delivered already cooked. The vertical roaster is simply warming the meat. For this, the health department requires a minimum temperature of 135 degrees.
But the pork on the trompo at a Mexican restaurant is raw, which means it can’t be left to rotate on a vertical roaster and still satisfy the health department, unless it is fully cooked to the internal temperature of 160 degrees. So the traditional Mexican trompo rotating on a vertical roaster is illegal in Houston.
Chowhound- Los Angeles area
Tacos Arabes or Cemitas Poblanas in LA
I am hoping that there is an authentic Pueblan restaurant somewhere out there in greater LA that may serve these dish.
Tacos arabes is basically Al Pastor but it is served in a ‘mexicanized’ thick flour pita with a yogurt sauce called ‘joque’ and honey and an herb infused olive oil.
I believe it was invented in Puebla by lebanese immigrants.
Here are some pics from a rest in chicago:
kare_raisu Oct 04, 2006 02:55AM
December 2006, Texas Monthly, “The Greatest Tacos Ever Sold” by Patricia Sharpe:
Pork Tacos de Trompo
Costa Messa | McAllen
With its white tablecloths and display cases of pricey jewelry, this must be the most upscale Mexican restaurant in town. But at five to a plate (with rice and beans on the side), its taquitos are a bargain. Pork is marinated in a secret red sauce for about thirty minutes, then slow-roasted until tender and all but spurting with juice. The robust flavor goes best with the small but thick corn tortillas, but larger flour tortillas, also handmade, are offered as well (they come three to an order). While there’s nothing wrong with the salsas, the meat is so moist and tasty that it’s better without them. 1621 N. Eleventh, 956-618-5449. Open Sun—Thur 11—10, Fri & Sat 11—11.
10 April 2007, Houston (TX) Chronicle, “Music Review” by Eyder Peralta, pg. 6:
MAYBE this is the way all norteno concerts should be: in the middle of a real rodeo, with the smell of tacos de trompo in the air and the stage atop the starting gates, with massive, gray bulls looking up to see what the big deal is.
Behind the stage at Plaza Rodeo San Miguel south of Houston, Los Tigres del Norte flew out of their dressing rooms, instruments in hand, and journalists who had gathered for an impromptu press conference threw out questions.
Jazibe’s Recipes
Friday, June 22, 2007
Tacos al pastor (also known as Tacos de Trompo)
These tacos are traditionally cooked in a kebab-like vertical rotisserie with a pineapple on top. You can also make quesadillas (with soft flour tortillas) and add some of the meat and make what is known as a “Gringa”.
Enough for 15-20 tacos (enough for 3 or 4 people)
let me know if you try this! its super easy and SUPER good!
5 Pasilla chiles
5 Guajillo chiles
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
15-20 soft corn tortillas
1 kg pork meat (boneless, cut into 1/2 in. pcs)

Garnish + serve
Pineapple (fresh or canned)
Finely chopped onion
Coarsely shopped cilantro
San Antonio Express-News - Edmund Tijerina blog
June 27, 2007
What’s the big deal about tacos al pastor?
They and other Middle Eastern immigrants brought their traditional ways of cooking. Among them, the vertical roasting spit that we know best for the Greek gyro. The Lebanese used the equipment for döner kebabs.
In the hands of Mexicans, the lamb became pork, and the locals marinated it in achiote and topped it with pineapple.
In Puebla, the name reflects the people who brought the idea. Hence, tacos árabes. Hey, if a cheese topping can make enchiladas “suizas,” then a Lebanese-inspired item can be called “Arab.”

Today’s tacos árabes are predominant in Puebla, where the tortilla for that dish looks a lot like a pita. There, the meat doesn’t get the achiote marinade.
But especially around Monterrey, they’re called tacos de trompo. That name has a very straightforward explanation. For the meat in the tacos, the Mexicans used a hunk of pork shaped like a child’s toy top. And the word for “top” — trompo.
What about “al pastor?” The name itself refers to shepherds, but the reasons for the name are murky.
I’ll keep looking for good research to explain the name. In the meantime, it’s better just to enjoy them.
Dallas Food
Posted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:11 pm
Al pastor, like barbacoa, is a cooking style or method, rather than a specific meat. The dish is actually an adaptation of the shawarma that Lebanese immigrants brought to Mexico. Thin sheets of achiote-marinated meat are stacked on a vertical rotisserie spit, topped with a halved pineapple, and allowed to slowly roast. (Another common name for these is tacos de trompo, with trompo meaning “toy top,” which is kind of what the loaded, top-heavy spits look like.) A sharp knife running down the edge of the stack drops slivers of lovely caramelized meat onto your tortilla, sometimes with some pineapple added. Though other meats are used from place to place, the most common is pork. With all that said, most of what passes for “al pastor” in Dallas is pork prepared in some other way, usually braised or oven-roasted.
Adult Swim
11-04-2007 10:56 PM
I like Tacos, especially tacos de trompo with diced onion and cilantro lots of green hot sauce and red sauce too, and maybe some sour cream in the side with guacamole and a cup of ranchero beans and tostadas. Yeah!

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Monday, December 03, 2007 • Permalink

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