The magnificent adobada taco at Taqueria Los Albañiles.
Between Calle F and G on Segunda, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC
Having finally come to terms with the jeering orange pile of disillusionment that is being marketed as the original taco al pastor in Mexico City, I returned to an old Tijuana favorite to reaffirm the trueness of its merits.
Though the shop dates back to 1982 — a good 16 years after Mexico City’s El Tizoncito first piled marinated pork shoulder on a shawarma-style spit — Taqueria Los Albañiles (between Calle F and G on Segunda, Zona Centro) appears to have maintained a solid grasp on adobada’s higher potential for the past couple of decades.
A tore-up Segunda leaves Los Albañiles looking like a scene from 1882.
The sit-down family restaurant offers a spacious dining room in the back, but the real action happens at the open-air barstools surrounding the taquero.
Fresh-smashed masa tortillas puff up like party balloons on the plancha as the taquero flips carne asada and tripa on the grill, pounds chorizo into greasy chunks on a wooden stump, and shaves crispy cuts of deep red adobada from the trompo with a lengthy blade.
Everything about their adobada taco is right. The flame-charred hunks of meat, the almost-delicate tortilla, the generous splash of guacamole on top — it all speaks to the subtler sensibilities of taco craft. Only the tang of toasty pineapple could better its greatness, not to mention the requisite squeeze of lime.
Los Albañiles' trompo is temporarily out of commission, but the plancha-prepared adobada maintains its savor.
Unfortunately, due to a major, yet lackadaisical, overhaul of Segunda (a prime thoroughfare connecting Playas to Centro and on to San Diego), the shop no longer has the traffic to consume a weekly trompo. Some neighborhood business owners suspect that the road won’t be reopened for a year — a crippling prospect at best.
Now cooked to order on the plancha, the adobada’s glistening marbles of fat still carry Yuletidely notes of cinnamon and the far-away earthiness of achiote.
A selection of aguas frescas (guayaba and guanabana, when they have it, are highlights) go nicely with the old timey scenery and handmade tacos, which approach burrito status when ordered as a quesadilla de harina con adobada.
The bonus: Los Albañiles’ jukebox — although partial to norteño jams - has been known to drop a well-placed Doors tune or even the inexplicable, party-starting Rapture track when the mood is right.
Grab a beer, ride the onda.