When it comes to the idea of fine dining, the mind can’t help but wander off to exotic places known for their cuisine: New York, Paris, Tokyo. The terms imply an artistic arrangement of food focused on presentation rather than portion size. You picture chefs wearing big, funny looking, white hats, and the ambiance in the restaurant is key. Hardly do you imagine the words “fine dining” when talking about traditions like Mexican cuisine.
But in McAllen, Texas, there is a place quite singular in its specialization: cabrito; translation “kid” or baby goat. Terrible imagery, but most fine dining involves some manner of appalling practice of mammalian sacrifice in order to reproduce centuries old gastronomical traditions and quell discerning palates demanding satiation.
Walking into El Pastor Restaurant is like walking into a holy shrine where the altar features a cabrito impaled over flames and splayed, limbs wide reaching as if welcoming you into a warm embrace. In the evenings there is a steady stream of soft key strokes emanating from the “piano bar”, where a person sits playing for hours.
It is essential to note that if you are ever in McAllen and you choose to visit El Pastor, first you must be a meat aficionado with no qualms about the relationship between animals as living things and as food in order to fully enjoy the pleasures of eating flesh. Secondly, you must order the dishes exactly as I did, (shown below) so as to gain a full appreciation of this delectably decadent menu.
Queso Fundido (Melted string cheese with chorizo = $8.95)
Guacamole (Mashed avocado = $5.95): A must with many Mexican dishes.
Riñonada (“Kidney part” with grilled onions and charro beans = $25)
Beer (Bohemia, Mexican Import $4.75 x 4= $19): If you are having cabrito, there is absolutely no other drink you are allowed to have! Well, I suppose some exceptions can be made. But for me it’s a no-no.
Pastel de Tres Leches (Sweet three milk cake topped with “burned milk” = $5.75): Believe me you will need this sweet, liquidy pastry after all that beer and meat.
Total = $74.35 including 15% tip.
I used to watch a show on the Food Network called $40 a Day. This restaurant experience is definitely not fit for that show, but it is sure to put a smile on your belly.