Entering the Latino Mall, neon signage flashes from El Morelense: The Authentic Taco al Pastor. Arguably the best al pastor in the valley, El Morelense draws diners in from across the city with the promise of spit-roasted pork.
For the uninitiated, authentic al pastor is thin slices of pork that’s been marinated in spices, dried chiles and pineapple and then slowly cooked on a vertical spit (similar to shawarma). As orders come in, the meat is sliced off the rotisserie with a large knife and crisped on the flattop grill.
The al pastor spit is typically topped with a pineapple. As it cooks, the warm, sweet juice keeps the meat tender and moist. In its most traditional form, al pastor is served as a taco on small tortillas and topped with chopped white onions, cilantro, salsa and a slice of pineapple from the spit. That’s how you’ll find El Morelense’s taco al pastor ($1.50) served in addition to being loaded onto huaraches and tortas.
El Morelense is not a traditional sit-down restaurant with servers. Instead, you’ll order at the counter and then seat yourself at the shared tables within the Latino Mall food court. As such, El Morelense offers a serve-yourself salsa bar near the counter, with a spicy hot red salsa and a milder green salsa along with fresh lime wedges, cilantro and raw onions, which can be added to any item you order.
Huarache al pastor ($10.25) delivers a much heftier portion of slow-roasted pork on top of fried, shoe-shaped masa (similar to a sope but larger), along with shredded lettuce, avocado and crema before being sprinkled with concha cheese. Two to three people can happily share the porcine goodness of this Big Foot-sized huarache.
If you’re in search of tortas, El Morelense is one of the few places to find them. Unfortunately, the carne asada ($7.25) version was rather dry. Even with the addition of salsa, lettuce, avocado, tomato and jalapeño, little could be done to elevate the large round of grilled bread. I would be interested in trying the cubana ($11.25) in the future though to give it one more chance to wow me.
Tostadas ($7.25-$8) come as an order of two but you can mix and match the protein options if desired. Sadly, they had already sold out of the suadero the evening we dined there — so we opted for more al pastor — but the crisp tortilla is spread with beans, topped with shredded lettuce, avocado, onions and crema that finishes with crunchy satisfaction.
You can also find all of your favorite organ meats at El Morelense — tripa, cabeze de res and lengua — which are available on most preparations.
Wanting to try every type of food available, I was pleasantly surprised by the juicy and unexpectedly spicy chicken found on the quesadilla de tinga ($4.25) surrounded by melted cheese between two tortillas.
And aside from the al pastor, the chorizo tacos ($1.50) wound up being the most memorable selection at El Morelense. The generous portion of ground pork is heavily spiced with chili peppers and other seasonings for a palatable kick.
In addition to tacos and tortas, El Morelense also specializes in fruit-based drinks. Licuado ($5.75 medium, $6.50 large), which is similar to a blended smoothie, comes in a wide range of fruit combinations from mango and papaya to strawberries and pineapple — and even carrots. Bottle Mexican sodas and water are also available.
A visit to El Morelense will be made easier if you speak fluent Spanish but it isn’t necessary if you already have an idea of what you want to eat. Order numbers are called out in Spanish when your food is ready and if you look as gringa as I do, they’ll eventually announce it in English, too.
For an experience that will result in a tasty memory, El Morelense in the Latino Mall is the place to enjoy authentic al pastor and more.
Heather L. King also writes for www.theutahreview.com and can be found on Twitter @slclunches.
Food • HH
Mood • H
Service • H
Noise • b
Sharing the secret of authentic al pastor with Utah is the mission of Tortas Y Jungos El Morelense, located in the Latino Mall in West Valley City.
Location • 2470 S. Redwood Road, Unit #104, West Valley City; 801-347-1378
Online • www.elmorelense.com
Hours • Closed Monday; Tuesday- Saturday, 10 a.m. -8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Children’s menu • No
Prices • $
Liquor • No
Corkage • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major