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Zapata Mexican Taco Shop focuses on pastor 

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Zapata Mexican Taco Shop, 207 W. Rockrimmon Blvd., 434-7509, zapatamexicantacoshop.com

Eating tacos al pastor streetside is always a highlight of visiting Mexico. We watch the cooks do tricks — shaving pork and pineapple slices from the stacked meat log with quick knife strokes and tossing them behind their back to catch with a corn tortilla.

Of course, the better part is eating the tangy tacos, a perfect mix of sweet and heat punching through the onion- and pineapple-tenderized pork. I’ve had phenomenal versions abroad over the years, and some decent attempts locally. Month-old and sparkly-clean-and-shiny Zapata has made pastor its signature item, available also in burritos, on torta sandwiches, and on a more sizable al pastor plate ($14.99).

Location Details Zapata Mexican Taco Shop
207 W. Rockrimmon Blvd.
Northwest/Rockrimmon
Colorado Springs, CO
434-7509
Owner Oscar Macias, working the register when I arrive, tells me his chef hails from Puerto Vallarta and preps the meat in-house daily, along with just about everything else, including a colorful, potent array of salsas at a self-serve bar. Macias, who also owns the North Academy Boulevard Pueblo Viejo location (which offers an entirely different menu, he says), can’t recite what’s used to prep this house al pastor rendition, which hosts an orange hue on certain edges of the thick-shaved meat. The chiles aren’t of any spicy variety, though — he guesses Anaheim — and when I say I detect a hint of something like cinnamon, he says, “Yes, cinnamon!” in a mostly convincing tone.

A few slices of pineapple lie across the top of the pork mound for ornamentation, and some charred areas highlight more flavorful bites, while some pieces are a bit dry if forked alone. Better: Load the meat onto provided tortillas with a little pico, lettuce and guac plus your hot sauce of choice (the bright Tomatoe Ex Spicy is indeed a tongue biter) and the juicier elements balance the dryness. Paper towel rolls on the table lend a bit of street-food authenticity to the affair.

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