Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cactus Taqueria - Amazing Al Pastor

I read an amazing review of the Al Pastor at Cactus Taqueria and had to check it out. My first visit was pretty mixed. I beat a huge lunch rush and yet -- though I ordered first -- got served after a very long wait and after people who ordered after me. BOO!

I tried a range of tacos (carne asada, al pastor and even veggie!) and was just mildly impressed. Taco Hunt said that the Al Pastor was "tender and melts in your mouth" but mine was, while flavorful, over-cooked, crunchy and a bit over-dried. For some reason the tacos had the promise of a better experience in them so I thought I would try again one day. Some places do not warrent a second chance but Cactus Taqueria got 4 stars from Taco Hunt. I had to let them earn it with me.

So yesterday I was rouding up a group of co-workers for a Friday Taco lunch and learned that one co-worker is a serious taco afficiando. (A very exciting thing to learn!) It was music to my ears to hear that he was "searching for the perfect pastor!" Well! I was not sure if Cactus was the place for the "best" pastor but it certainly was at the top of my list of places I was rooting for to have the best. And what better than giving Cactus Taqueria a second chance with another passionate taco fan?

So we got in the car and drove over. The lunch rush either had died down or not really kicked into gear cause we swept in, ordered and got served pretty quickly. And the Al Pastor! It was sooo much better than before. Some pieces did truly melt in my mouth, but most were just tastry, crunchy, spicy and amazing. The salsa roja is totally dull (not bland but not really worth being in your mouth.) The inherent taste of the BBQ pork, though, is wonderful. This taco with La Estrella's roja would be amazing.

The Al Pastor tacos are small and only cost $1 and come pretty loaded with meat. The standard presentation is with cilantro and salsa verde which is also kinda dull. There is a habanero salsa they'll only give you if you ask. It's off the charts hot. Limes, radishes, etc are available for the asking too. My co-worker said the Al Pastor Burrito was amazing and it did come chock filled with meat (and rice, beans, etc.) I tried the carnitas too and it tasted foul. It seemed like it had olive oil on them. I threw them away and ordered more Al Pastor.

In the three times I've bene to Cactus Taqueria, the Al Pastor sometimes is more charred and cooked dry than I'd like. I wonder if that is particular to who is working there. It seems to have no connection to the time of day (I'd think lunch rush would be a peak performance time). For my taste, it's the only thing to order at Cactus Taqueria but it is among the best Al Pastor I have had in LA. Of the three times I think Cactus Taqueria is getting a B+ for the Al Pastor. But as my friend said "when its on point, like yesterday, it was divine." For a potential A+ Al Pastor taco, look no further.

Cactus Taqueria is located at: 950 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 464-5865

Find Cactus Taqueria on Google Maps

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