Pork that’s stained orange with an achiote marinade and shaved from a spit called a trompo is a key component of Mexico’s culinary canon. Pastor, as the preparation is called, is particularly revered in Mexico City. Walk the streets and you’ll see hundreds of kiosks, stands and restaurants sporting vertical spits. The heart of D.F.’s pastor culture, or at least a valve, is the neighborhood of Condesa, which is where Dona Conchita “invented” pastor at El Tizoncito in 1966. That open-air restaurant is still going strong, and so is El Califa, another contender for the pastor crown, but during my pork-fueled crawl, neither prepared pastor as good as El Farolito.
El Farolito has been open since 1962 and now features more than two dozen locations, including Aeropuerto Toluca and Mexico City’s Aeropuerto Internacional, but don’t let the chain status deter you. According to Santiago Garcia, manager of the Condesa location, the owner goes by Mussi, and he’s clearly a pastor wizard, or at least was smart enough to hire them.
After almost five decades, El Farolito still continues to magnetize diners. Given El Farolito’s endurance and reputation, it wasn’t a big surprise to hear that Mexico City native Elizabeth Belkind even frequented the restaurant as a little girl.
Everything comes together in the scintillating pastor taco, which is shaved to order from the spit and topped with a nearly translucent slice of pineapple, which resides at the top of the trompo and brings a sweet note to the crusty pork. This modern masterpiece costs about a dollar, a bargain.
El Farolito provides five different salsas at no additional charge, including tangy aguacate (avocado), spice chile morita, balanced “Mexicana” with tomato, cilantro, onion and serrano; and a smoky salsa of tomato, onion, cilantro and guajillo.
Considering a three-taco stop at El Califa had only been in the books for a half-hour, my stomach was already reaching capacity, but it was impossible to resist another El Farolito specialty, the Farolada (101 pesos ~ $8). Crispy grilled pan Arabe sandwiched a doble racion de queso (double portion of Manchego) and shavings of Arrachera, a lean but juicy cut of Hereford beef that’s similar to flank steak. El Farolito’s version came with the aforementioned array of salsas and ranchera beans, soupy pinto beans supercharged with chunks of chorizo.
The Farolada was remarkably similar to arayes, a popular Lebanese flatbread sandwich.
El Farolito’s menu features dozens of categories, including tacos al carbon, alambres al carbon, quesadillas, huaraches and tacos with seven different cuts of carnitas. They’ve also got tortas, jugos and an entire Menu Bajo en Calorias (a low calorie menu). Clearly, there’s a lot more “research” to do at El Farolito, and this meal gave me the push to do just that.