[Sunnyvale/South Bay] Best Al Pastor?

Any recommendations for best Al Pastor in South Bay? My benchmark is Tacos El Gordo in San Diego/Las Vegas and I haven’t been able to find anything close in the Bay Area. Taquerias up here tend to make their Pastor very sweet it seems - much more so that I’ve had when I used to live in San Diego and I can’t say I’m a fan. Seems hard to find places around here that do it on the vertical spit the way it should be done as well. Would prefer B&M places vs. taco trucks as it’s freezing these days so sitting outside is no bueno. Thanks.

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I’d love to know as well. My benchmark is DF al pastor places. And a special little truck in San Miguel de Allende. And sadly, what little tacos, and pastor, that I have had locally don’t seem to measure up. I don’t know if I was biased while travelling, however. But I never seem to find tacos here so amazing that I’d devour a dozen in a row. The magic of lard south of the border, perhaps?

If you haven’t already, when it gets warmer, give Mamacitas Tacos outside Mountain View Target a try. I don’t remember about their pastor specifically, but generally their tacos are decent for the Bay Area.

And if you make it as far north as Redwood City, give the Los Carnalitos truck outside Planned Parenthood a try.

Sadly I haven’t explored the taco/ Mexican scene much south of Redwood City. There aren’t many, just random little shops here and there.

My one recommendation is Metro Balderas 1 at 688 Almaden Avenue, San Jose.
Thin shaved and good crisp. They actually turn the flame up, unlike a lot of places these days.
My understanding, though I can’t test it, is that they only cool the al pastor traditionally on weekends when the patio is open. There is a little bit of seating inside but it is quite small. Can’t vouch for their other location.
I live in SF but i’ve been down there 3 times so far for their tacos.
While I don’t think anything compares with tacos in mexico, this came closest for me.

I’d love to know as well. My benchmark is DF al pastor places. And a special little truck in San Miguel de Allende. And sadly, what little tacos, and pastor, that I have had locally don’t seem to measure up. I don’t know if I was biased while travelling, however. But I never seem to find tacos here so amazing that I’d devour a dozen in a row. The magic of lard south of the border, perhaps?

Agreed, lard definitely makes a huge difference in tortilla flavor in my experience. What’s DF?

If you haven’t already, when it gets warmer, give Mamacitas Tacos outside Mountain View Target a try. I don’t remember about their pastor specifically, but generally their tacos are decent for the Bay Area.

And if you make it as far north as Redwood City, give the Los Carnalitos truck outside Planned Parenthood a try.

Thanks for the tips. Will wait until it warms up to give those a try. Too bad the B&M location of Los Carnalitos is in Hayward, I rarely make it up there. However, I do drive by RWC pretty often. I have tried a number of taquerias in RWC but never been super impressed (can’t remember the names since they are all named Grullense or some variation of that). What are your favorites in RWC?

My one recommendation is Metro Balderas 1 at 688 Almaden Avenue, San Jose.

Thanks for the rec. Looks legit from the pictures. I don’t go to downtown SJ too often but will definitely keep it in mind if I’m in the area.

B&M in RWC- none. Tried those El Grullense, Los Gemelos, etc variations, and I wasn’ t particularly thrilled about them.

Distrito Federal. Mexico City, that is.

There’s no lard, or any other kind of added fat, in a corn tortilla, either in the US or in Mexico. You might be thinking of flour tortillas (which are not used for tacos around here), or maybe corn tortillas warmed on an oiled grill. But I agree, flour tortillas made with lard are much better than the shortening version.

Good to know it’s not just me being picky ;). Now that you mentioned Los Gemelos I do recall going there and having a pretty mediocre meal considering the rave reviews. My favorite taqueria on the peninsula/south bay is actually Pancho Villa in downtown San Mateo. They do pretty good chile verde pork and carnitas and their grilled shrimp is quite tasty as well.

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Years ago, a local foodie Sushi Monster did a taco crawl and rated every taco place around RWC. Unfortunately he didn’t eat pork so the list is not helpful to the question you are posing, and the age of the list (more than a decade ago) also doesn’t help.

http://www.emeraldlake.com/tacos/

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And if you ever make it to Oakland, El Paisa does a nice job with their tacos.

It’s a big schlep from Sunnyvale, but I’ll update you that Los Carnalitos in Hayward recently fixed their vertical spit (trompo). I’ll ponder its sweetness next time I go!

I remember reading about that a few years ago and at the time it was a great resource. I believe a few of the places that I’ve tried were based on recs from his list but as you said, being that it’s 10 years old now it’s probably quite outdated.

Good to know! If I’m ever in the area will keep it in mind but as you said it’s a pretty long schlep from Sunnyvale for tacos.

Based on a single trip to the Los Carnalitos truck in Redwood City I was a bit disappointed, though that might be from a combination of having it on my list to try for so long combined with ordering disappointment and confusion, when they did not have the pambazo or huaraches. I didn’t love the quesadilla al pastor, largely because it had a lot of chunks of uncooked pineapple embedded within, making the whole combo too sweet and a bit puckery from the uncooked pineapple.

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The uncooked pineapple is a little odd, especially in a quesadilla (yours looks unripe too) . Not typically, but I have had stuff from them with too much pineapple— I’ll take a future lesson from you and ask for no pineapple.

Hmmm. Is that a flour or corn tortilla? They used to make them, and huaraches, with fresh masa to order. I know they stopped doing cemitas

I got the quesadilla over the taco because the pictures on the side of the truck showed them as thicker, oblong (corn) tortillas whereas the tacos are shown as standard thin pressed tortillas. The tortilla seemed like it could have been pressed to order, or was at least made that day and not cooled, but didn’t have outstanding corn flavor. I have had similar tortillas at the El Grullense just down the road.
After hearing a Good Food podcast in which one of their tortilla experts mentioned that a a lot of tortillerias make tortillas with a mix of masa harina and in-house nixtamalized masa I have retroactively classified the many tortillas I have had that are obviously not factory pressed and cooled, and have a better texture and flavor than fresh-pressed masa harina, but are still a bit disappointing flavorwise into this category. Or it could just be that the type of corn that is generally getting nixtimalized is blander than that in some of the best tortillas out there.

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I recommend a taco truck right off 101 at the Mt View / Palo Alto border. It’s usually in the parking lot of the Video Only on Charleston. I don’t remember what the taco truck is called. It tends to roll up around 11am and be gone by 2:00pm ish. Sometimes the truck moves, it was alongside the costco for a while, it was actually on Charleston for a while, and now ( early 2019 ) it’s been in the Video Only lot.

There is no seating. The one thing I will warn you is their orange sauce is NUCLEAR. The green sauce is a little bland but has a nice acid tang that a green sauce should have - it’s just the orange to beware of.

I have eaten the famous places in DF, and I’m partial to the style we have here which is admittedly different. I like a little more crisp, which we do, although I miss the pinapple you get with every taco in DF. I prefer a spice-forward approach, because the spice is middle eastern and not that actually spicy.

This place does do “tacos by hand” ( hecho a manos ) and has a spit in the truck. The exact quality differs by time of day because sometimes you get the crispy bits that have been on the spit for a while, but in the lunch rush you are getting the succulent innards, if that’s your style. The “proper” DF places have two spits.

Reading here, I don’t think this place will satisfy you, but it’s close enough that it’s worth a shot. It is very convenient if you are going southbound. However, since it is all hecho a manos, it can be slow.

Video Only Mountain View
2485 Charleston Rd, Mountain View, CA 94043
https://goo.gl/maps/9xeAQUCcRf42

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Wait, this truck? I have passed by it so many times! I guess I will have to stop by next time.

Not Sunnyvale or South Bay, but Janelle Bitker has a nice article on DF style al pastor on trompo around the Bay Area, including a few sources around SF and Oakland:

@hyperbowler if you still go to Mission Bay, there’s a truck there.

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Do you remember what this truck is called/know if this is still where it usually parks? I need to try!

Pretty sure it is this one:

Yelp says they are some time at the O’reilly’s on California St/ San Antonio. I recall driving by a taco truck there a few times as well.

Elena, enjoyed your abalone story plus others on The Six Fifty. When are you going to write about all the taco trucks from RWC to MV? :slight_smile:

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold