On The Grill: Tacos al Carbón - Los Parados, El Parillón, La Pasadita, Los Picudos
Grilled meat tacos, done the 'real' way, that is, over wood coals, are a rare treat in the city. Much more common are carnes asadas, fried on a griddle. But the smoky kind are the best. These are three of my favorites.
Mixed Company - Los Parados
This fabulous carny hang-out offers real tacos al carbónthat is, meats cooked over coals on an open grill. Many places claim they do them but really sauté their meat on a griddle. Not the same thing. Costilla, chuleta, chorizo, pollo, they’ve got it all. The winner here is the rib-eye, a bit higher in price than the others but pesos well spent on tender succulence. The salsas, hand mashed and set in gigantic molcajetes, are superior. Varying hours are listed, but they seem to always be open, morning to morning. I was there recently at 2:30 a.m. on a Thursday night/Friday a.m., and a fascinating cross-section of worn out gay/straight bar patrons, thugs, off-duty whores and policemen were happily devouring their succulent char-roasted morsels of goodness, all the while downing ice-cold horchata or beer. And, it behooves me to mention the normally unspeakable “B” word. Yes, the burgers, Mexican style (i.e. topped with salsa, bacon, cheese, etc.etc.etc.) are sensational.
Monterrey 333, corner of Baja California, Colonia Roma; view map
El Parrillón is located in Tabacalera not far from Reforma. It’s a humble but hip grilled meats taco stand that hides between other run-of-the-mill puestos on a non-descript back street. A tempting list of less often seen carnivorous options such as panceta and several kinds of chorizo are made at the owner, Gustavo Trejo’s farm in the State of Hidalgo. They’re grilled to smoky charred perfection, always to order, and served with beautiful roast tomato and chile de arbol salsa, roasted nopales, piña, cucumber and sweated onions. Tortillas are the good kind, hand-formed and resilient. While old-fashioned bistec is a good place to start, I love the chorizo español: though nothing like I ever tasted in Spain, it’s tender and fragrant with garlic and paprika.
Calle Madrid near Paris, colonia Tabacalera, a block from Metrobus Reforma; view map
Open Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m
Tacos La Pasadita
The best of the bunch, a holy grail if there ever was one, is hidden in the depths of the Merced. The Mercado Merced is the largest public market in the city (aside from the Central de Abastos, the wholesale market.) It's an area stretching many city blocks, each specializing in its own product. Functioning like the old Les Halles in Paris, the Merced sells to individuals as well as to retail businesses.
La Pasadita’s amazingly swift taqueros work over coals – aromatic meaty smoke constantly rises and wafts out of the busy stand. The grilled morsels are generously heaped over several warmed tortillas topped with charred nopal and onion then augmented with top notch spiky salsas. Tacos de costilla are the winners here: meat is as tender as a baby’s behind. Chorizo, chicken breast and arrachera are also worth sampling. This place, a known entity to the myriad denizens of this forever bustling forum has been one of my secret favorites for years. Now, word is out.
Tacos La Pasadita
Open 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily
La Merced is easy to reach by metro: Take Line 1 to the “Merced” stop and exit from the front of the train. You will be inside the main market building. To reach La Pasadita, walk straight (heading west) when you exit the metro – doors are labeled with numbers; follow the west side of the building, turning right as you exit, until you pass door ‘5’. La Pasadita is just past this one; it faces the building. View map
Los Picudos, which opened in 1981, is a beloved institution in Del Valle. The aroma of grilled meat greets you from a half block away in this quiet residential tree-lined street. The usual bistec, costilla, chuleta and pechuga de pollo are offered but best is arrachera, chopped small with finesse. A huge molcajete of pico de gallo, a brick red guajillo and a green salsa as well as pickled onion with spiky serranos awaits to adorn these simple, honest morsels of smoke imbued carnivorous pleasure. That said, the rajas con queso taco is a good vegetarian option, the generous heap of asadero cheese grilled with strips of mild poblano.
Moras 230 corner of Miguel Laurent Colonia del Valle; view map
Open Monday - Thursday 1 p.m. -1 a.m., Friday, Saturday until 2, Sunday until 12 a.m.