There is something addictive about tacos al pastor—the small tortillas filled with crispy marinated pork, pineapple, spicy red salsa, onions, cilantro and lime. Street vendors in Mexico sell hundreds of these every night. Tacos al pastor are made by marinating the pork in a varying amounts of orange, lime and pineapple juice, dried chiles and spices. Cooks have their own variation for the marinade. The pork (sliced in thin steaks) is then cooked on a vertical spit or vertical roaster with a pineapple on top. As the pork and pineapple cook, the juice of the pineapple glazes the pork. The meat is then sliced off in thin strips and served in corn tortillas with pieces of pineapple. The tacos are served with a spicy green or red salsa, cilantro and lime.
14559 Manchester Rd., Manchester
El Maguey is an overwhelmingly colorful restaurant. Carved wood chairs with peach, pink and blue tones reminiscent of Mexico decorate the restaurant. Something in the décor alluded to Tex-Mex cuisine—which is not the case. It did not have tacos al pastor, so I ordered Steak Tapatio. This dish had a rib eye steak, with green salsa, rice and beans. It was absolutely delicious. The green salsa (made with tomatillos, cilantro and chilies) was spicy and authentic, probably the best I have had in St. Louis. The rice and beans served with the tacos were equally good. The refried beans at El Magey are smooth, flavorful and super filling. The tortillas with the dish were flour, and I would have prefered corn, but I did not ask for them.
The good: The overall flavor of the dish was excellent, including the sides.
The bad: Corn tortillas would have been more authentic.
14870 Manchester Rd., Ballwin
For authentic Mexican food, Señor Pique is usually the place to go. The upscale, comfortable décor is welcoming and a nice backdrop to your meal. The meat in the tacos had a nice grilled flavor, but was a little too wet. Usually, the meat in tacos al pastor is crispy from being sliced off the spit. There was an overly seasoned sauce that was slightly unbalanced—toward the sweet side. The grilled pineapple was a nice touch. Overall, the tacos were OK, but not the usual authentic fare expected from Señor Pique.
The good: The grilled flavor of the meat and pineapple was delicious.
The bad: The sweet sauce/marinade drowned the meat.
Mexican Restaurant 14839 Clayton Rd., Chesterfield
This small strip mall restaurant has friendly service and neighborhood regulars. The tacos came with corn tortillas, frijoles de olla (a bean stew with bacon and spices) and a spicy mayonnaise. The tacos were too sweet. They lacked a spicy, savory flavor. The dish was also scant for a dinner entrée. The small cup of beans also lacked flavor, and the bacon was chewy and underdone. The mayonnaise was an unauthentic and weird addition.
The good: The tacos were served with corn tortillas.
The bad: The flavor of the tacos was too sweet, the beans lacked seasoning and the bacon was not cooked properly.
The winner: El Maguey wins for its delicious and authentic tacos. The green salsa was superb. This was the case even though tacos al pastor are my favorite. That says a lot about El Maguey.