Ask Mr. Gold: Tacos al Pastor

Dear Mr. Gold:

There is nothing like the taste of freshly carved tacos al pastor from a taco stand in Mexico: tasty and crispy and delicious.

While Los Angeles might have authentic Mexican food, I cannot find a place that serves al pastor from a spinning spit. I have had it fried, but it’s certainly not the same thing. Please help. I need my pastor.

—Carl C. Nicolaou, Los Angeles

Dear Mr. Nicolaou:

I sympathize with your plight. Crisp, charred, spicy-sweet edges of marinated pork carved off a spit exposed to live fire — this is one of the most delicious things in the world. Especially when the salsa is right, which is to say smoky and intense. Especially when the taco master remembers to toss in a bit of the pineapple that often roasts at the top of the spindle.

The truck that parks behind El Taurino on Hoover Avenue near Olympic has been turning out some of L.A.’s best al pastor for decades — it is especially compelling late at night, right after the bars close, when the parking lot becomes the de facto destination of what seems like half of Los Angeles. But if I were you, I’d take my chances and drive down Olympic or Whittier boulevards in East Los Angeles on a weekend and keep an eye open for sidewalk stands toasting their al pastor with guttering spits of live, yellow flame. You’ll know when you’ve run across the right carts, which move locations frequently, when you see happy crowds, double-parked cars and bootleg-DVD vendors displaying their illegal wares on carpets a few feet away.

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