Essential T: The Al Pastor Show at Los Güichos

One of L.A.’s top <em>carnitas</em> teams is a major-league double threat

I think one of the reasons baseball remains my favorite sport has to do with specialization—there are nine players on the field with nine different skill sets that come with varying levels of offensive and defensive performance. But the rarest of these trades is that of the switch-hitter, a batter who can hit from both sides of the plate, like greats Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, or Eddie Murray. Switch-hitting is a lost art, but one of L.A.’s best taco vendors has revived this practice; on weekends, they fry up some of the best carnitas in L.A., and at night they roll out a pair of dueling trompos that tempt your palate as they spin like a pair of marinated pork reels on a slot machine. Jackpot!

Two trompos is better than one.
Two trompos is better than one.

Photograph by Bill Esparza

Tacos Los Güichos has garnered a reputation for their Mexico-City style, offal-intensive carnitas cooked confit-style in a large stainless-steel pot known as a cazo, but they are the greatest street-food double-threat to local Mexicans in the know and taco connoisseurs. Their second trailer, located in the Sal’s Propane parking lot, where you can always trick your car out with custom rims or get a wheel alignment, is where a pair of hefty, flaming spinners (al pastor, not rims) are trimmed by two Mexico City-trained taqueros.

The al pastor is naturally colored–no food coloring or noticeable application of achiote paste–with an excellent char from the roaring flame that practically welds the layers of meat together. It’s a cooking technique that defies convention, but in the hands of a master taquero is constitutional. The al pastor is extremely balanced with an emphasis on the simple pleasures of tasty pork. For street-food vendors, the curveball is the limited business hours for serving dishes like carnitas that are mostly popular on weekend mornings and early afternoons. But the switch-hitter can avoid the curve. Once the cazo runs dry, the trompos arrive, ready for the night game: al pastor.

redarrow Tacos Los Güichos, Slauson Avenue and Olive Street, Florence, for carnitas and al pastor; Slauson and Avalon Boulevard for carnitas on weekends