Mexico City soul food, part one


If there is such thing as a Mexico City municipal dish, it would have to be tacos al pastor. A variation on Middle Eastern shawarma, it is made from pork (don’t tell Allah), marinated with various spices, including a heavy dose of annato, which gives it a shrill orange color. The slices of pork are mounted atop each other to form a huge orb, and impaled on a metal stick, which revolves around a vertical charcoal grill. The fire from the grill is turned up as orders are placed, and the taquero slices from the most fully cooked part to fashion the taco, which is adorned with cilantro, onion and a slice of pineapple.

Although this version of events is not universally accepted, supposedly the taco al pastor is the invention of a woman named Concepción Cervantes, who discovered shawarma on a trip to Lebanon, and debuted her version at a taco stand called El Tizoncito in 1966. That taco stand – now a well-appointed little restaurant – is still on the same street corner of Tamaulpas and Campeche in the fashionable Condesa neighborhood. (There are twenty franchises of El Tizoncito in Mexico City and around the country.)

My favorite tacos al pastor are located not at El Tizoncito but at Tacos Álvaro O., on calle Álvaro Obregón, nearly at the corner of Tonalá, in the Colonia Roma. The ones pictured are at Tacos Frontera, further down Calle Álvaro Obregón.