Flavor revolves around carne al pastor at El Taco Veloz
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...
Mark Antonation Blue skies mean a take-out order.
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.
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.
Mark Antonation Join the rotisserie club.
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.
Mark Antonation Alambres with hand-made tortillas.
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.
Mark Antonation Sope al pastor.
Keep reading for more on El Taco Veloz.