Left: Tacos Xochimilco; Right: Tacos Matamoros
Battle of the Dishes: In which the two versions of a dish from two different restaurants are pitted in a battle to the death.
The mammoth, extraordinary torta at Don Pepe’s has probably kept you full until now. But if you’re ready for another torta, today the al pastor versions from Tacos Xochimilco (which made our Ten Best tacos list) and Tacos Matamoros, a well-regarded taco joint, are battling for supremacy. The two places happen to be right across the street from one another.
What makes a good torta? Well seasoned and cooked meat, fresh bread, and an abundance of flavorful stuffers like onion, mayo, cheese, jalapenos, avocado, and more.
Tacos Xochimilco’s al pastor torta ($6) drips red, spicy oil, saturating the to-go paper bag, promising good things. This portion of al pastor is more generous and meaty than that from Matamoros, as are the copious amounts of mayo and avocado. Pickled jalapenos, onions, tomato, and slices of mild Oaxacan cheese complete the behemoth. Al pastor meat should be fragrant, punchy, spicy, mildly sweet, and caramelized, ideally grilled on a rotisserie spit. This al pastor is more vinegary than anything else (almost like a vindaloo!) and wetter than usual, lacking any browning.
Tacos Matamoros’ torta (also $6) features al pastor pork that’s sliced thinly, with some gristle, and portioned a bit too judiciously. Still, it smells wonderful, almost like cinnamon, is colored brick orange from its marinade, and mixed with tiny dice of potato. The edges of the meat are nicely caramelized. Plus, this al pastor came from a spit in the kitchen. The sandwich also benefits from plenty of pickled jalapenos, Oaxacan cheese, and avocado. The bread is nothing special, but is fairly fresh and chewy, amounting to nothing but a delivery system, which is basically what it should be. It’s easier to deal with size-wise than many tortas. Is that good? You make the call.
This was a tough battle, but Matamoros finally pinned Xochimilco to the mat, on the strength of its meat.
4508 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-871-7627
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 1, 2009