When driving through Alberta's Rocky Mountains from Jasper to Banff, it is entirely possible to succumb to an overload of beauty. Around each bend a scene that is even more extraordinary than the previous one. After a while, it becomes too much and every postcard worthy new view just becomes humdrum. A walk down Bergenline Avenue in Union City and West New York, New Jersey has the same effect on the casual customer searching for good Latin American fare. Every time I come here I am overwhelmed by all the goodness, check one place off my list, and add five or ten more.
One could be forgiven then for overlooking the small metal cart on the corner of 36th Street in front of Payless Shoe Source. The last time I walked down the main artery of this Latin American neighborhood was on a late Saturday afternoon when temperatures were still pleasant, and the crowd around Taquitos El Paso was worth taking note of, three deep trying to place orders and a scrum of people shoving voluptuous tacos into their faces.
Upon closer inspection, a beautiful trompo, or spit, held the key to all the ruckus. A well manicured mass of al pastor meat spun in front of everyone, tantalizing even my taste buds that had already been submitted to so much that day. I had to make a vow to come back with an empty stomach on another occasion.
Tacos (below) here are $1.75 and single shelled. The proprietor will cut plenty of the pork onto these thick discs and then ask if you want cilantro and onion, lime and radish. Once completed, a self-service red and green salsa bar are available, and a couple folding chairs are set up along the wall so that patrons can try to get comfortable and not stain their pants.
What is offered is the finest version of the al pastor taco I have yet found in the tri-state area. The meat is moist and delectable even without salsas, though the green is very good here. We noticed on our first that no pineapple was mixed in as usual, so we asked for the addition and were rewarded with massive chunks from atop the spit. Be sure to ask for these when ordering, as the sweetness of the fruit cancels out the slightly too salty marinade and makes for quite a ride.
For those not in New Jersey, 36th Street is located so close to the exit of the Lincoln Tunnel and so many major bus lines out of Port Authority. Getting across the river on public transportation only takes ten minutes or so, and this taco is well worth the trip.