Tucson Taco Madness: A fiery battle of taco powerhouses

Pima Post

Mexico City is the Washington, D.C., of Mexico. It is also a standalone district outside of the other states, and it’s the capital of the country. 

Perhaps equally important, it is arguably the home of the best al pastor tacos. 

It is a taco rooted in history and cultural heritage. Its original conception was introduced by Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Mexico.

It was a remix of a homeland dish — with the traditional anatomy substituted with ingredients found in the region.

Pita bread was switched for a corn tortilla and lamb for pork. The meat was seasoned with chiles and spices from the region, and voila … the al pastor taco, as we know it today, was born.

An al pastor taco is made with cuts of layered and seasoned pork meat grilled on a “trompo.” It is then adorned with slices of pineapple, cilantro, chopped onion and powers (of your choice or the house’s choice sometimes).

Variations of this taco have traveled to several states in Mexico, but even if it is delicious, its DNA is changed by making the meat “carne adobada.” 

In these states, taco auteurs opt for grilling pork meat (with the same al pastor seasoning) on a flat surface instead of crafting the cone-like shape with layered slabs of pork meat.

That my friends, is a taco de adobada, and not al pastor.

Al pastor references the grilling technique on the trompo. It’s a similar technique to grilling lamb meat for gyros: You stack the meat on a vertical spear, then you grill it by rotating the trompo evenly in front of a heat source.

This authenticity and famed savory tradition, though, isn’t confined to Mexico City. For example, the nearby city of Puebla, Puebla, and the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco — are also famous for their al pastor tacos.

In this tournament, we’ll find out what al pastor taco in Tucson shares that same championship pedigree, and has what it takes to reach the promised land of the best taco in Tucson.

The Al Pastor Division was the hardest-fought in the tournament, not just in the South Central Conference.

Everyone brought their A-game and competed hard until the last bite was taken.

Ensenada Street Food came into the tournament with great energy and expectations. But ultimately, it fell to the rest of the competition, because of one reason that trickled down into all aspects of the taco.

Its al pastor is not made in a trompo; therefore, it’s adobada. And its tortilla and powers were not enough to help them from being bounced. 

This is not to say they put out a bad taco. As a wise man once said, “There are no bad tacos … some tacos are just better than others.”

And the other tacos in the division were some of the best.

The rest of the division’s competitors used the traditional trompo, and they also displayed excellent discipline in other aspects of their tacos. 

An amazing collection of tortillas and powers was showcased by the remaining three, and the display was textbook — it turned this year’s division battle into an instant classic.

Polo’s Taqueria has been making noise in the division for some time now. And it has a new location to solidify its standing as one of the best in Tucson.

Whether in its old or new location, this taco shop’s game is always pristine and all-around good. There are no fatal flaws in the taco, but it fell short against the remaining two after a deliciously competitive outing.

El Chinito Gordo came out swinging with a great taco. It was grounded in an almost-perfect tortilla that held together all the way through the competition (unlike the University of Arizona Wildcats’ offense that unraveled after two games).

Yet, the best part of this taco was the powers. The taco was served with the necessary powers an al pastor taco should always have.

It imposed the game it wanted to play against the competition and invoked the spirit of many Mexico City al pastor taco places — where the only choice you’re left with is salsa or no salsa.

In other years, El Chinito Gordo might’ve taken home the division. But this time it came down to the wire, and it was won on the fringes.

They say iron sharpens iron, and Tacoson proved that to be true.

Tacoson is located within the American Eat Company. A place that is surrounded by great food varieties from all over the world. 

In order to stand out, it consistently must perform at the highest level. And its performance to advance to the next round was all-around great.

This was an almost perfect taco: Its tortilla was the perfect size and had the perfect consistency. Its meat was made in a trompo. It was classically seasoned and was adorned with just enough pineapple chunks to enhance the flavors.

This is a legitimate contender for the title. It does not have a vast variety of powers, but it has all the fundamentals made with refined skill. 

By concentrating on the classic staples of the game, Tacoson was able to craft a menace of an al pastor taco. It advanced to the next round, where it will face fierce competition … but this taco was forged by great and delicious competition.