Editor's Note: This one is fairly self-explanatory, but here we go: Chicago Tacos explores the good, the bad, and the truly exceptional taco options in the Windy City--one taqueria at a time.
When I visit a taqueria for the first time, I usually play the field, sampling as much of the menu as one man reasonably can. That way I can try some of the classics, along with a few oddball items in the hopes of unearthing a few gems. But if the taqueria in question is named Taqueria El Pastor, which also happens to be my favorite taco filling, then I don't need to waste time lollygagging around. It's al pastor or the door.
How could this place screw up a dish it's named after? Well, let me count the ways. The shop could griddle marinated meat and still call it pastor—a genuine deception numerous other taquerias around town do without shame. But even if the meat comes off the spit, someone might not be able to tame it, leading to overcooked and dry meat. The workers could even slice nice thick hunks of the spit, and then ruin it all by chopping those pieces up until they start to resemble ground beef. (I've seen all done before.)
But I knew I was in good hands from the moment I laid my eyes on Taqueria El Pastor's plump and jolly looking spit, which was stacked high, stained red, and glistening by the front window. It just looked good. Though warmed on the griddle after being sliced off, the meat is thankfully left in large slices, and still maintains a good smoky backbone. But it's the marinade that sets this one apart. Pungent and earthy, this is one of the most flavorful versions I've tried in Chicago.
That makes Taqueria El Pastor another solid option near Midway Airport. Unfortunately, as I explained last week during my Zacatacos review, getting there requires a genuine investment due to construction on every conceivable route (at least for the next few months). But I like missions with a singular purpose, and what goals are more important than tracking down great al pastor?
Taqueria El Pastor
4418 West 63rd Street, Chicago, IL 60629 (map)
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