In our recent explorations of Mexico City’s Azcapotzalco neighborhood, we were taken to a taquería that was going to “blow our minds,” according to our host. After having some drinks at El Dux de Venecia, the oldest surviving cantina in the city, we headed around the corner to Los Parados de Pepe for a visit.
Our first impression didn’t amount to much. Half of this tiny hole in the wall was taken up by a large counter where tortillas were being made. A sloppily hung menu listed just a few options, and the grill in the back didn’t radiate culinary magic. The establishment next door, El Mesón Taurino, is one of the city’s oldest taco joints, but it has seen better days. However, as we’ve learned with so many places in Mexico City, you can’t judge an eatery by its looks.
Our guide insisted that one taco would be enough to satisfy our appetite. We were very skeptical, as tacos in this city tend to be modestly sized, and a meal usually requires several. Tacos here are 80 pesos (US$5) – a very high price for any taco in Mexico – and if you ordered it with cheese the price shot up to 140 pesos (US$9). Our guide ordered one beef taco and one beef taco with cheese for our group of five. But when our order arrived, everything made sense.
A taco at Los Parados de Pepe is like no other taco in Mexico City. Each order comes piled high with a whopping 300 grams (11 ounces) of meat – a choice of bistek (steak), chuleta (pork chops), suadero (beef shank) or longaniza (sausage). And it comes accompanied by half a dozen fresh, handmade tortillas. One taco can easily feed two customers or a single extremely hungry one. For 80 pesos you can also order a quesadilla that comes in the same fashion, with a large portion of Oaxaca cheese topped with several tortillas.
Los Parados de Pepe has been in business for 49 years, owner José Martínez, Jr., told us. His father started the business and it has remained in the family all this time. The secret to this taquería’s success is very simple, according to Pepe (short for José). It all comes down to one single ingredient: All the meat is marinated in the lard from a female yearling sheep. More lard is added to the meat while it cooks on the grill. We can attest that this makes for an incredibly tasty (and surprisingly not greasy) taco – and a delicious-smelling taquería.
We think, however, that Los Parados de Pepe’s success can also be attributed to a few other things. It’s the kind of establishment where one can easily mingle with other eaters (parados refers to people who are standing, which is how customers eat their tacos and quesadillas). The salsas are fresh and hot (use caution especially with the green one!). And of course, handmade tortillas are always a plus at any eatery in Mexico. All of these – and the tacos themselves – make for a very impressive taquería. Minds were indeed blown.
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