4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Adventures in Adobada: Melancholy in Mexico City

Losing faith at al pastor Mecca.

El Tizoncito, the home of the taco al pastor taco since 1966 - located on a corner in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.
El Tizoncito, the home of the taco al pastor taco since 1966 - located on a corner in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

Friends in Tijuana often talk about Mexico City as if it were the mythical land of Oz, and for good reason. With a population approaching 9 million, the sprawling capital, also known as Distrito Federal (or DF), oozes history, teems with cosmopolitan vibrancy, and is the birthplace of the adobada (or “al pastor”) taco.

Tizoncito's bola glows orange from powdered milk and a super secret recipe.

Elaborating on the lamb shawarma “tacos arabes” made popular by Lebanese immigrants decades earlier, Colonia Condesa’s El Tizoncito (Tamaulipas 122, Colonia Condesa, DF) premiered the taco al pastor in 1966 and is now a nationwide chain of 24 locations, including one in Ensenada.

Tizoncito’s trompo (or “bola”) is mounted atop three whole onions, capped with pineapple, and gives off a safety orange hue unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Baja. The taquero told me that the meat’s marinade arrives pre-made from HQ in a recipe so secret that even he didn’t know its true contents. He did, however, know that it involved powdered milk and vinegar, which might explain how traditional adobo spices such as paprika and achiote could be made to give off an almost neon carroty glow.

The few shavings of pork don't compare to the robust, succulent street tacos of Tijuana.

12.5 pesos got me an offputtingly scant serving of lomo shavings served on a dry, premade tortilla and garnished with cilantro, onion, and a splash of salsa picante. I wanted to like it — this was, after all, Mecca – but the taco fell totally flat on my palate. The pork had no character, and the absence of fresh-pressed masa only underscored its anticlimax.

The gringa comes with cheese on a flour tortilla and far outshines the classic taco al pastor.

To Tizoncito’s credit, the taco came topped with a sliver of lightly toasted pineapple — an exceptional luxury in borderlandia — and never once hit the plancha to compensate for insufficient time on the spit.

Of course, this is just one glimpse at what Oz has to offer, but, with more than a hint of melancholy, I can only feel as though I’ve pulled back the curtain behind the fabled wizard to find a frail old coot whose reputation far outshines his reality.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Bob McPhail wrote about illnesses, finally dies of them

With Reader from 1987 to 2018
Next Article

Blue Line trolley to Nobel Drive to Poki One N Half

This is the start of a whole new way to see the county
El Tizoncito, the home of the taco al pastor taco since 1966 - located on a corner in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.
El Tizoncito, the home of the taco al pastor taco since 1966 - located on a corner in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

Friends in Tijuana often talk about Mexico City as if it were the mythical land of Oz, and for good reason. With a population approaching 9 million, the sprawling capital, also known as Distrito Federal (or DF), oozes history, teems with cosmopolitan vibrancy, and is the birthplace of the adobada (or “al pastor”) taco.

Tizoncito's bola glows orange from powdered milk and a super secret recipe.

Elaborating on the lamb shawarma “tacos arabes” made popular by Lebanese immigrants decades earlier, Colonia Condesa’s El Tizoncito (Tamaulipas 122, Colonia Condesa, DF) premiered the taco al pastor in 1966 and is now a nationwide chain of 24 locations, including one in Ensenada.

Tizoncito’s trompo (or “bola”) is mounted atop three whole onions, capped with pineapple, and gives off a safety orange hue unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Baja. The taquero told me that the meat’s marinade arrives pre-made from HQ in a recipe so secret that even he didn’t know its true contents. He did, however, know that it involved powdered milk and vinegar, which might explain how traditional adobo spices such as paprika and achiote could be made to give off an almost neon carroty glow.

The few shavings of pork don't compare to the robust, succulent street tacos of Tijuana.

12.5 pesos got me an offputtingly scant serving of lomo shavings served on a dry, premade tortilla and garnished with cilantro, onion, and a splash of salsa picante. I wanted to like it — this was, after all, Mecca – but the taco fell totally flat on my palate. The pork had no character, and the absence of fresh-pressed masa only underscored its anticlimax.

The gringa comes with cheese on a flour tortilla and far outshines the classic taco al pastor.

To Tizoncito’s credit, the taco came topped with a sliver of lightly toasted pineapple — an exceptional luxury in borderlandia — and never once hit the plancha to compensate for insufficient time on the spit.

Of course, this is just one glimpse at what Oz has to offer, but, with more than a hint of melancholy, I can only feel as though I’ve pulled back the curtain behind the fabled wizard to find a frail old coot whose reputation far outshines his reality.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Mayor explains decision to educate commuters by flooding portion of I-5

Puddle Pedagogy
Next Article

Harvey Milk ship-christening with Mayor Todd Gloria

“Uncle Harvey was forced to resign because he was gay. It’s important to teach that we have evolved.”
Comments
1

As a follow up, I had plenty of excellent al pastor in DF - on late night tortas, street-side hamburgers, and of course, tacos. And maybe I just caught them on an off night, but the self-proclaimed "creators of tacos al pastor" really were a let down. Something in their secret formula seems to have dissipated over the years. Or maybe it was never there in the first place. Either way, their offerings were about as appetizing as the Subway I got at Benito Juárez International Airport - and only because my sandwich technician misheard "Italiano" for a well-intentioned "Vegetariano." I'll also go ahead and credit Subway for carrying on Montezuma's enchanting tradition of revenge. Consider yourself avenged, old sport!

April 10, 2014

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close