Flavor revolves around carne al pastor at El Taco Veloz

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
Blue skies mean a take-out order.
In A Federal Case, I'll be eating my way up Federal Boulevard -- south to north -- within Denver city limits. I'll be skipping the national chains and per-scoop Chinese joints, but otherwise I'll report from every vinyl booth, walk-up window and bar stool where food is served. Here's the report on this week's stop...

This week found me at the second El Taco Veloz on Federal (or I suppose it could be the first, for anyone eating their way down the boulevard from north to south) in what was a purely accidental stop. My plan was to take friends to another nearby restaurant, which happened to be closed. Taco Veloz was the nearest appealing alternative and one I knew wouldn't disappoint, so we found ourselves circling the parking lot to avoid a tow truck removing an abandoned vehicle, dodging epic potholes, and finally parking in what seemed somewhat like a parking space, considering the lack of painted stripes.

See also: Pay attention to the signs at El Taco Veloz

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Mark Antonation
Join the rotisserie club.
The southern Taco Veloz is just about the closest thing there is to a regular restaurant in my book; I've eaten through most of the menu board in addition to specials posted in cramped handwriting on bright orange or yellow signs taped around the cash- register counter. But this was my first visit to the northern outpost, and I was just a little nervous that it wouldn't live up to my long-winded descriptions of the amazing grilled meats and various corn masa permutations to which I'd become accustomed. That the dining room was almost full and a steady stream of customers entangled the lobby area between the cash register and the salsa bar seemed like a positive sign. More sales means faster inventory turnover, which generally means fresher ingredients.

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Mark Antonation
Alambres with hand-made tortillas.
And with a parade of mouths to feed, what could be fresher than a spit of marinated pork loin cooking on a vertical rotisserie, the meat glazed and patinated like an ancient, weathered amphora. El Taco Veloz has long been known for its tacos al pastor, but this location actually stays busy enough to keep the rotisserie grill hot and spinning during prime business hours so that the pork roasts a few millimeters at a time, just enough for the cook to shear off tender slices without the meat drying from overcooking or sitting at room temperature uncooked because of a lack of business. I watched in silent admiration as an employee wielding a saber-sized serrated knife surgically removed layer after layer of pork, juices running down from the fresh cuts to further baste the layers below.

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Mark Antonation
Sope al pastor.
It was a thing of beauty, destined to become our lunch. We ordered a variety of items based on that carne al pastor: a plump tortilla buried in a mound of lettuce and sour cream, a lightly crisped sope sided with fresh slices of avocado, and a sizzling heap of alambres Mexicanas -- a cheese-entangled mass of carne al pastor, chorizo and grilled onions and pepper served with a stack of housemade corn tortillas. To that we added an ample gordita stuffed with barbacoa and a couple of sides of frijoles refritos, which we loaded up and took back to my friends' house for a spring picnic on the patio.


Keep reading for more on El Taco Veloz.


Location Info

El Taco Veloz

5145 Federal Blvd., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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19 comments
steveo65
steveo65

Good stuff. Had this article been written a few years earlier, I would have recommended the hoagie from the sadly departed K-Mart. Delicious! 

Mike Sisk
Mike Sisk

I have to check out on my way home sometime.

chuckroast
chuckroast

Is the pork on a rotisserie from the loin?  I always assumed it was from the shoulder. 

elotescallejeros
elotescallejeros

I'm glad you liked this outpost. I was going to write you last week and tell you not to spoil my secret gem, as I noticed you were getting close. Too late but I'm glad u agree it's one of the best in this city

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@davebarnes  Not skipping the restaurant, just rearranging a little based on the fact that it was the place I mentioned in the article that wasn't open. Or do you mean that I skipped the Yelp review? Because, yes, I absolutely did.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@elotescallejeros  I actually want more people to know about my favorite places on Federal. Not only is it depressing to eat in an empty dining room, it just seems like when there's more business the food quality improves because you're not getting something from the back of the deep-freeze. I don't think either location of Veloz will approach the level of hipness that results in hour-long waits on the sidewalk, except maybe if they add tequila bars. Until then, I'll just bring a flask of reposado and slip it into the Horchata.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@TheFabulousMarkT @chuckroast  I will defer to a writer and aficionado who in my opinion is the leading expert on carne al pastor in this town. http://www.denveronaspit.com/p/inspiration.html 


I have also seen references in Spanish that use the the phrase lomo de cerdo, which I take to mean pork loin. However, the ultimate source is the cook who actually cuts and stacks the meat and I have not had the pleasure of conversing with that individual.

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

I expect STRICT numerical order.

Discipline is essential.

The link to Yelp was one of convenience as it saved me from having to type Thai Bao.

TheFabulousMarkT
TheFabulousMarkT topcommenter

@Mantonat @elotescallejerosYes indeed. Thai Bao can definitely use some more business as can the place a few fronts down... whose name I won't blab in case it's next up...

TheFabulousMarkT
TheFabulousMarkT topcommenter

@Mantonat @TheFabulousMarkT@chuckroast Hmm! Yes, he (Mark M) is definitely an awesome resource for this type of inquiry, so I'd believe him any day.

And you know, I'm the sort of person who'd probably think pork butt actually comes from the derrière, so there you go. :)

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

Not if you believe in the supremacy of cardinal numbers.

TheFabulousMarkT
TheFabulousMarkT topcommenter

@davebarnes Well y'know, there is that other restaurant in the same strip as Thai Bao... depending on your perspective that could come first too :)

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