Last Wednesday, I had the day off from work. With the temperature in the mid 70s, I thought it would be a good idea to take the bicycle out on the trail to see the colorful fall leaves. Since I would be biking in the city Thursday I decided the Montour Trail would be the trail to explore that day, and the trip was of course planned around finishing the day at Las Palmas in Brookline. (note: that link takes you to the Facebook page for their Beechview location, I couldn’t find anything on the Brookline one!)
I first heard of Las Palmas early in the year when I asked friends where they’ve had their favorite tacos. I’d say Las Palmas was the majority vote. So over six months ago I had my first Las Palmas experience. It was pouring rain that day yet there was still a decent line of people! I was struggling to hold my umbrella, cash, styrofoam taco container, and a lime Jarritos all at once. I remember eating the tacos in the car with the heat blasting, and I didn’t care it was that nasty out because I enjoying my first tacos from Las Palmas. Now, I can’t believe I waited so long to go back, or that I haven’t really brought up Las Palmas in conversation.
I have only been to the Las Palmas in Brookline, located at 700 Brookline Boulevard, outside of the Las Palmas Mexican grocery store. There are other locations as well at 616 Broadway Avenue in Beechview and also in Oakland at 326 Atwood Street. If you visit the Brookline location, be sure to check out the colorful mural they have on their back wall!
Since the weather was a little more pleasant this time, my friend and I walked from Dormont (about a mile) to Las Palmas. We got there after 2pm, so there was no wait. We took our time ordering and looking at all the meats which were also getting grilled up right in front of us. There was al pastor, fajita mix (chicken/pork/peppers/onions), carne asada, pollo (chicken), chorizo, and beef. It was very hard to choose with so many options.
I ordered three tacos, but because there was so much meat and so many toppings, I probably would have been okay with two (or split a third taco…if you can find someone to share). I went with the steak, chicken, and al pastor. After paying for the taco and Jarritos, I dressed up my tacos. There were containers of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, mild, medium, and hot homemade salsas, green sauces, and an avocado creamy salsa all at the station beside the grill. Looking back at the pictures I took, I am not sure why I bypassed the avocado cream sauce. Either way, don’t be shy with the toppings!
Make sure you grab plenty of napkins and don’t forget a fork. You will get messy and everything inside your initial masterpiece of a taco will begin to fall apart quickly, and you wont want to waste a single bite so don’t forget the fork.
The one downfall to prepare for is no seating. There is a nearby park about a few blocks from Las Palmas, a few benches, or sitting in car like I did last time are all options. We couldn’t wait to eat so we sat on a bench nearby.
Las Palmas may have the best corn tortillas I have ever had. La Palapa and El Burro also serve amazing double layer corn tortillas, but this may top them all. It is the thickest corn tortilla I have even had. The corn tortilla is so substantial, its like biting into a triple layer cake.
I loved each taco I ordered. My first taco had steak, mild salsa, chopped onions, and cilantro. There was some fat on the steak I did not care for but the steak itself was very tender, and the mild salsa I added was wonderful.
Next, I ordered the pork marinated with pineapple and onion (aka al pastor – more on that below!). Now it’s not pulled pork but small shavings. The sauce it was in was orange in color like the chorizo sauce. The pork had a little kick, but sweet at the same time thanks to the pineapple. It was also the runniest of the tacos. I used a napkin to make a barrier from the sauce running into the chicken taco, and used another napkin to catch the sauce dripping down my chin. To this one I added cilantro, chopped onion, and pico on top. Finally, the last taco I enjoyed was the chicken. It was grilled and finely chopped up. For toppings I chose their salsa verde, chopped onions, and cilantro. Every sauce I used was simply perfect. I definitely suggest to mix and match and try all their different sauces. They also have small cups so you can take one of each with you, for the indecisive types out there.
So, about al pastor. I always thought al pastor just meant pork with pineapple. When writing this blog, I was curious to look up what al pastor was exactly. I learned that it is pork shoulder stacked on a vertical skewer, topped with onions and pineapple, then slowly rotated in front a vertical grill where it cooks. This causes the fat from the pork shoulder to drip down onto the other pieces of meat, browning and crisping the outer layers which are then shaved off. The pork shoulder is marinated with a mixture of chilies, aromatics and achiote. Achiote is a mildly earthy, bitter spice that gives a distinct bright red color. Probably why the pork at Las Palmas looked like it was covered in an orange sauce!
My friend ended up borrowing my fork as we both sat on a bench enjoying our tacos, sipping on our Jarritos, and enjoying the time there until our walk back. It was definitely worth the mile walk up and down the hills of Dormont and Brookline after a workout on the Montour trail to get Las Palmas tacos. And I would do it again and again.
Price: $2.50/taco- cheaper than most places!