Al pastor is Spanish for “shepherd style” and when used in concert with the word “tacos,” refers to a dish from central Mexico that makes you rethink what you know about life. Fight me.
Inspired by the shawarma spit-grills brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early 19th and 20th centuries, and soon enough, their Mexican-born children started combining their Middle Eastern heritage with the local cuisine and birthed something really special of their own using pork marinated with dried chilies, spices, pineapple, and sometimes an achiote paste that is slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie.
The meat is shaved off the spits in thin slices and placed onto a small corn tortilla and usually served with chopped onions, cilantro, and diced pineapple.
Authentic al pastor tacos are notoriously hard to find so we were invited by Ryan Manning of MX Taco in the Milk District to some of his favorite spots in The City Beautiful to try to find the perfect example of the special food.
ALL OF THE FOLLOWING VIDEO AIRED ON OUR @ORLANDOBUNGALOWER INSTAGRAM ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 4 AS WE SAMPLED OUR WAY ACROSS TOWN.
MX TACO – THE MILK DISTRICT
Since Ryan was leading the tour, we obviously had to stop at his little restaurant to sample his wares.
MX Taco (Facebook | Website) is probably one of the tiniest restaurants to open in Orlando in a hot minute, but the food and flavor is pretty ambitious. Manning pulls back on the seasoning to let his top-notch ingredients speak for themselves and his al pastor tacos are borderline decadent. He even brings in his tortillas from California.
MX Taco is located at 207 N. Bumby Avenue [GMap] and is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Thursday to Saturday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.
HUNGER STREET TACOS
The folks behind Hunger Street have made it their mission to serve authentic Mexican flavors and we’re happy to say they’re succeeding. Which is lucky for us because we can eat there as much as we want.
Their tacos al pastor were super flavorful and none of their tacos are over $4.
Hunger Street is located at 2103 W. Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park [GMap] and is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday.
OBT FLEA MARKET
The OBT Flea Market (Facebook) is the least pretentious collection of outdoor vendors I’ve ever seen in this town.
Located at 5022 S. Orange Blossom Trail, just south of the 408 overpass, this collection of covered stalls, tents, and pavilions features families and individuals selling everything from clothing, to furniture, jewelry, produce, and prepared foods.
We obviously were there for the food and sampled as much as we could including hand-cut coconut water, exotic fruits, and a chamoyada. Chamoyadas are a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice drink that is made with fruit and flavored with chamoy – a savory sauce made from pickled fruit. This specific vendor, the handsome one in the photo below, garnished the massive drink with a chile powder-caked straw and massive chunks of mango. Definitely worth the $6 fee.
We tried the al pastor tacos at the Tacos El Michoacano stall and loved every bite. The flavors were fresh, the pork was perfectly crispy, and the family running the staff was super-friendly. We got two tacos for about $5 and change.
One of the other vendors specializes in giant quesadillas. You’re welcome.
The OBT Flea Market is located at 5022 S. Orange Blossom Trail [GMap] and is open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
PIG FLOYD’S URBAN BARBAKOA
Pig Floyd’s (Facebook | Website) is known for their bbq so we were a little shocked to hear that they were serving up some al pastor. But upon closer inspection, though delicious, their offerings were a bit more bbq-y than al pastor-y with a hearty sweetly smoked flavor and almost creamy sauce inside rather than the crispy pork we’d come to love at the other stops. That’s because it’s really a pulled pork rather than rotisserie but it’s still served up with roasted pineapple, onion, cilantro, and ancho pepper sauce so we’ll let you decide on how much of a purist you are before you head over.
That being said, still yummy and they had yucca fries.
The Pork Al Pastor Taco is $3.79 a piece.
Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa is located at 1326 N. Mills Avenue [GMap] and is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.