After being exposed to the taco truck 'Tacos Al Pastor', on Riverside Drive, we instantly fell under the spell of it's incredible hand rolled tortillas and delectable al pastor. On subsequent trips to get tacos from the truck, we noticed a restaurant set back in the strip mall, also enigmatically named 'Al Pastor'. Was there a connection? One would assume.
My wife and I recently made a trip to the restaurant, which was immediately followed up with a trip by Jarod and I for official Taco Journalism purposes. Oh, the obligations!
To say the storefront is unassuming would be a major understatement. The strip mall is pretty run down and the windows to the restaurant are completely covered in reflective silver tint masking whatever it is that is going on inside.
Once you cross the threshold, however, you'll find you are in a quite charming and clean little place with ample seating at booths and tables. The 1,000 inch TV hung in the corner playing telenovelas is something I could do without, but for tacos of this quality, I'll let it slide.
If you take a peek over the counter and into the kitchen before you sit down, you can catch a glimpse of the vertical rotisserie that makes this place something special. Genuine spit roasted al pastor is a thing of beauty, and is not found in a whole lot of places. Most taquerias in town marinate the bits of pork and then fry them up on the flat grill. This makes for good tacos, but the genuine whole marinated and spit roasted article is a real treat. This shawarma-like preparation started in Mexico City as Lebanese and other middle eastern influences were adapted to the local cuisine.
If the name of the joint wasn't clue enough that al pastor is the specialty here, the menu will remove all doubts. The first two pages are filled with dishes that seem familiar and delicious, but when you turn it over to the back, there is an entire 'al pastor menu' with about 20 items on it. I must say, I misted up a little when I saw it.
The al pastor is just amazing. The texture is much chewier and more substantial than the grilled versions found most places. The fact that it hasn't been fried up on the grill in cooking oil allows for the spices and marinade the meat has been treated with to really shine through. There is definitely a hint of citrus or pineapple to be detected.
It is not the juiciest meat you can find, as it seems to dry out some on the spit, but the enhanced flavor and texture more than make up for it, IMHO, especially since some salsa or a squeeze of fresh lime juice will lube things up nicely.
So far, I've tried two items from the 'al pastor menu' and both were phenomenal. The 'Al Pastor Special Plate' featured a mix of al pastor and carne asada with a light covering of mild white cheese. It was served with rice, beans and salad. The refried beans are very, very good, with a thick texture and a nice hint of bacon flavor. On my 2nd trip I had 'Juevos Al Pastor', which, as you may imagine, was simply a plate of eggs served with al pastor meat, beans and potatoes. FANTASTIC.
Both of these dishes were really sent over the top by the salsa and the tortillas. They make their own fresh flour tortillas here, and it's a beautiful thing. Far and away the best tortillas in town, along with those at the sister truck out front. Your humble Corbiter D could happily eat rocks and twigs wrapped in these tortillas for weeks without complaint.
The two salsas on offer were both absolutely fantastic. The red sauce is a straightforward salsa with a really good flavor, and a nice amount of burn. It's well above average in a town swimming in red salsas.
The real killer, however, is the green sauce. It's is the same soul glow inducing product of beauty we talked about in our review of the Taco Truck Tacos Al Pastor, and we love it just as much now as we did then. At first glance you'd guess this creamy green concoction was a mild avocado salsa, but once you taste it, you'll know different. It is HOT. My best guess is that it is made almost entirely of jalapenos and crema (or maybe mayonnaise?). In any case, it complements the excellent tortillas and delightful al pastor meat perfectly, and will set your skull to buzzing with pleasure chemicals.
According to the business card I picked up, Rosita's Al Pastor has been around for 20 years, and it is to my eternal discredit that I've spent the last 15 years of my Austin residency missing out on it. If you haven't been, you should reject that shameful state of affairs and rectify the situation as soon as you can.
Rosita's Al Pastor - 5 stars - Cornbiter Deluxe
1911 E. Riverside