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Juicy Juxtaposition

Al's Quick Stop serves up Mexican and Middle Eastern foods side by side

While it seems odd to see shawarmas and tacos together on the same menu, they're actually related. There's a huge Lebanese community in Mexico. The immigrants brought their vertical rotisseries with them to make kabobs in the New World. Several Mexican dishes borrowed the Lebanese technology.

Tacos al pastor, which means "shepherd's-style tacos," are made from a cone of thinly sliced pork, which has been marinated in achiote and stacked on a vertical roaster with a big chunk of pineapple on top. The pork slices revolve in front of the heating element and get shaved off as the outside gets done, just like a shawarma. The meat is usually crisped on the griddle before being served on lightly fried corn tortillas. There is another variation that's popular in Puebla called tacos arabes (Arab tacos). The meat is the same, but it's served on what looks like a cross between a flour tortilla and Arab flatbread.

The tacos al pastor at Al's Quick Stop are available on either corn or flour tortillas. I think next time I'll ask for them on the flatbread with the pickled turnips and yogurt sauce, and call them tacos arabes.

Vertical rotisseries are used to make both gyros 
(pictured here with fresh french fries) and the 
Mexican tacos al pastor.
Daniel Kramer
Vertical rotisseries are used to make both gyros (pictured here with fresh french fries) and the Mexican tacos al pastor.

Location Info

Map

Al's Quick Stop

2002 Waugh
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Montrose

Details

Gyro plate $4.99
Three-taco plate $3.89
Falafel sandwich $3.89
Tacos al pastor $1.25
Fresh lard $2.99
2002 Waugh Drive, 713-522-5170. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

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Al's is also one of the few places in town that has fresh manteca (lard) for sale. If you're trying to make tamales, refried beans or Mexican cookies, fresh lard is a blessing. The lard sold in tubs at the grocery store not only contains trans fats, it's also tasteless. While healthy lard may sound like a misnomer, it is in fact much sought after by cooks. Igor grabs a tub on the way out. His favorite Hungarian goulash recipe calls for it, he says.

I joke with Igor on the way to the register about the fact that the only place I can find rendered pig fat in Houston is a convenience store run by a Muslim Palestinian.

"Is this halal lard?" I tease Al as we settle the tab.

"Hey, this is America," Al says with a grin and an upraised palm. "You gotta make a living. I sell beer, too."

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