From the moment my plane landed in Mexico City, there was no doubt that my first meal would involve spit-shaved pork. Condesa is the birthplace of pastor, so it certainly made sense to go to that neighborhood. It was just a matter of whether the starting point would be El Farolito, El Califa or El Tizoncito – the 1966 originator. Logistics made my decision easy. The closest restaurant after exiting the Chilpancingo Metro station was El Califa, which has thrived for over two decades.
Sidewalk tables ring the triangular restaurant, which is far from fancy. Well, that’s if you discount the faux chic uniforms. After all, the waitstaff wears variations on the dreaded T-shirt tuxedo, including “suspenders” with forks at the end and “backpacks.”
El Califa lavished sweet strips of Pasilla chiles with onions and a judicious crema. Tucked into warm corn tortillas, the rajas formed the basis for some stellar tacos. El Califa listed this dish under the “Nuevo” category, with Especialidades designated with stars.
My waitress suggested pairing it with Salsa Asada, which was prepared in a molcajete with chile de arbol, chile Serrano, onion, cilantro and jitomate (tomato). The salsa certainly helped matters, but much more satisfying bites were just ahead.
This was a very good taco that would certainly shame other similar tacos in Los Angeles, but Mexico City held better tacos de pastor.
One thing that jumped out at me at El Califa, and impressed me throughout the course of my trip, was the commitment that even casual restaurants make to producing exceptional salsas.
El Califa turned out to be a great first-meal choice in Mexico City and set the tone for what proved to be a devastating pastor crawl, and a devastating trip in general.