Are Tacos al Pastor the Perfect Food?

Posted By Jeremy in North America


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Tacos al Pastor in Tulum, Mexico.  Yum.
Halfway through our long-term trip, we asked the question: “Are Greek gyros the perfect food?”  For gastronomy-focused travelers like ourselves, finding what we consider to be the perfect food has always been the ultimate goal when we dine out.

For many months after publishing that post, we continued traveling the world and ate many unique and authentic meals that were absolutely worth the trip.  But none of them topped the gyro (or even came close, for that matter).  It wasn’t until we hit the last country of our long-term trip, Mexico, that we found a contender in the form of tacos al pastor.

After the first bite, we realized something interesting- these two meals are identical in almost every way.

The Preparation of Gyros and Tacos al Pastor is Identical

Gyros in Santorini, Greece

Watching tacos al pastor being prepared gives a sense of deja vu, as it is virtually identical to the way gyros are made.  Both meals start with a large stack of meat (preferably pork- the only option in my mind) which is covered in seasonings (gyro) or achiote paste (tacos al pastor) and is slow cooked on a vertical rotisserie.  When the outside edges become crispy and the meat is fully cooked, a shaver or large machete is used to shave off the meat into either a pita (gyro) or corn tortilla (tacos al pastor).

Now the Toppings Come in to Play!

Is it for Gyro or Tacos al Pastor? I can't tell! (Answer: It's Mexican!)

Most all Greek gyros include a tangy tzatziki yogurt sauce, french fries, tomatoes and onions while Mexican tacos all pastor are often topped with salsa, onions, cheese (for a few extra pesos – not needed), and pineapple.

The only major difference between the two when it comes to prep style is the size of the meal itself.  One Greek gyro is often large enough to feed two adults comfortably- that is to say they are monstrous.  At a cost of around 2.5 to 4 Euro ($3.30-$5.30), you can’t go wrong.  Tacos al pastor, on the other hand, are tiny.  These delicious treats often come in tortillas that are only 3-4″ in diameter and one taco costs around 7-14 pesos ($0.50-$1.10).   To put these meals on the same level quantity-wise you need about 3 or 4 tacos, which makes the delicious tacos cost roughly the same price as a gyro for those who can dominate one by themselves.

Are Tacos al Pastor the Perfect Food?

3 Euro 50 for this gyro beast.  Yes!

I can easily say that I’ve never had an experience quite like the one I had when eating tacos al pastor for the first time.  This deja vu feeling was unique in that both foods were top class items I could, in all honesty, eat just about every day in my life.  Compared to other meals which have been similar for all the wrong reasons, I couldn’t be happier with these two meals.

Tacos al Pastor with Cheese (a few pesos extra - not even needed).

But are tacos al pastor the perfect food?  Perhaps not. 

When it comes to tacos nothing tops them.  Not even close.  But there is something about gyros that makes them just a bit different than my beloved tacos.  Maybe it is the tzatziki sauce.  Or perhaps it is the warm pita.  Or maybe, just maybe, I have had to many tacos in my life, making tacos al pastor a little too familiar.  There is something unique about a massive pork gyro that a taco cannot stack up to, no matter how delicious it is.

Sorry tacos al pastor, you are not the perfect food.  But there is no shame in being a close second.

Go to Mexico and eat these now!

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