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Taqueria el Pastor

Taqueria el PastorIn a word: Gather with your herd.

The specs: #0650  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Insider Pages, Yelp, 77 Square, Trip Advisor, Ruppert Food Blog; listing at Eat Drink Madison; El Pastor on Urbanspoon

Latest Taqueria el Pastor news and reviews

Alex ate the mojarra frita with a mango margarita.
Becky ate the chile relleno and a pork tamale with a Jarritos.
Bessie ate the camarones a la Mexicana sans beans, a pork tamale, and a margarita.
Brett ate the tacos cabeza and lengua and a chicken enchilada verde.
JM ate the taco loco, a chorizo taco, and a quesadilla with a lemonade.
Laura ate the chilaquiles.
Nichole ate the posole with an XX lager.
William ate the taco loco, the lamb taco, and a red enchilada.
We split some guacamole.
The bill was about $12/person, plus tip.
William gave Taqueria el Pastor an A; Nichole gave Taqueria el Pastor an A-; Alex and JM gave Taqueria el Pastor a B+; Bessie gave Taqueria el Pastor a B; Brett and Laura gave Taqueria el Pastor a B- (see our grading rubric).

MargaritaTaqueria el Pastor was the first stop in the first of three more Mystery Tours that left our bellies full and heads spinning. What took us five days to eat will take us two weeks to post, but that's a luxury we enjoy as journalers as opposed to journalists. Nearly every taqueria and "Taste" has something special to recommend it, so those who travel with us patiently won't be disappointed.

The brightly lit dining room was about half full on this Tuesday night, mostly of families with small kids. We started with chips, salsa and guacamole as a baseline. Here the guacamole was chunky and on the green side (in the unripe and yellowish sense).  The chips were unsalted but fresh-tasting and crisp, and we went through the salsa faster than the servers could bring it.

Bebidas here are delicious. A large mango margarita gives the Big Gulp a run for its money, while the small one still packs a dainty punch. There are the requisite bottles of Jarritos and Coke, as well as a few bottled beers and XX lager on tap from the small bar in the party room. (Side note: a taco buffet birthday gathering in that party room was our first experience of Taqueria el Pastor, which made a good first impression on us and might have influenced our opinion on this visit.)

Chips and salsaGuacamole

Speaking of birthdays, the posole here is too good to save for special occasions. The bowl pictured must be a good nine inches in diameter. Those bits poking above the opaque red broth are just the visible parts of a veritable reef of tender hominy and probably a half pound of slow-stewed, fatty pork. The tidily-packed leftovers were even better after a night steeped with those peppers. 


Three of our group got dinners with beans and rice. Bessie had asked to skip the beans, but they came on the side anyway, the gap on the plate filled in with more rice. As side dishes go, both beans and rice were pretty boring.

The entrees themselves fared better. A plate of camarones a la Mexicana came with red, white and green pride in the form of tomatoes, (too many) onions and bell peppers, plus jalapenos and chorizo to add "the perfect heat," all stir fried with the shrimp.

Camarones a la Mexicana

Laura's chilaquiles, a plate of tortilla chips baked with red sauce and topped with fried eggs, was a good "morning after a night out" meal. They weren't amazing; amazing was the third dinner, which we'll get to in a moment.

First, the snacks: Becky got a chile relleno with a batter "like a pancake" that soaked in the wonderful, strong pepper flavor. She and Bessie each tried a pork tamale that they agreed was fantastic, with sweet pork and a hot but not painful spiciness.

Chilaquiles con huevosChile relleno and pork tamale

William and Brett tried the chicken enchiladas. Brett's green one was just average, and William's red one was "solid, not too greasy nor dry." Some of the tacos were better: the taco loco of pork, beef, and cheese that William and JM each tried was worth the extra $1 for "greasy magic at its best." The slow-cooked beef head meat in Brett's cabeza taco was nicely fatty and delicious, as was the lengua; missable was the lamb, which was tender but bland. We have no notes on JM's quesadilla but it was pretty WYSIWYG: a toasted flour tortilla with white cheese.

Taco loco, barbacoa lamb taco, red enchiladaTaco de cabeza, taco de lengua, green enchiladaTaco loco, chorizo taco, quesadilla

And now for that third dinner. Alex has a knack for finding the gems in every menu. Tonight it was the mojarra frita, an entire fried tilapia. If we can venture a global criticism of Taqueria el Pastor's food, it's that it leans to the bland side. Bland translates to delicate when applied to the perfectly seasoned breading on this fish.

Fish fry

The upshot is that the menu can be hit or miss but, on the whole, Taqueria el Pastor has something for almost everyone, even if they are not big fans of Mexican food.


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Terrific tacos (homemade tortillas), excellent burritos, good chips and salsa. One of the three best Mexican taquerias in town. I know it's not 'authentic', but I absolutely love their steak and chorizo chimichanga. It's humongous, rich, decadent, and wonderful with their salsa.

Just want to follow up my last comment, which could be misconstrued -- this is definitely about as close to an 'authentic' Mexican taqueria as Mexican has, but chimichangas aren't so traditional, and likely on the menu for gringos. That said, I still love them!

Another great Park St. restaurant and probably the first authentic Mex in Madison before the rash of new ones opened. Great drink specials; $2 Dos Equis drafts and half-price margaritas to mention a couple. One of the pleasant surprises on the menu is the shrimp cocktail, which comes served in a big soda fountain glass with several large shrimp hanging over the sides and the glass filled with a tasty cocktail sauce spiced with cilantro and topped with avocado.

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