In an episode of the hit TV show “Master of None,” Dev (Aziz Ansari) finds himself craving tacos. He proceeds to spend hours researching where to go for tacos that are worthy of his time, money, and taste buds. Taco-related paralysis by analysis is a true hardship for those of us in Austin, a city with practically unlimited taco options.
I propose a solution: the next time you get stuck in a “where can I get the perfect taco” predicament, put your trust in a food trailer that has been satisfying Austinites’ taco cravings for over 30 years: Rosita’s Al Pastor.
Going Strong Since 1985
Rosa Juarez, now 77-years-old, opened Rosita’s Al Pastor brick and mortar restaurant in 1985. The following year, a trailer was added, offering an option for customers who aren’t looking for the full menu or a sit-down meal.
Both the restaurant and trailer still do business in the same location on East Riverside Drive, with the restaurant set back in a strip mall and the trailer in the parking lot, closer to the street. The trailer’s surroundings create the old versus new dichotomy that has become so prevalent in Austin. A strip mall with a gritty feel on one side of the street, new apartment buildings, Chipotle, and Starbucks on the other. It’s a fitting location for a trailer so rich in history, but still as popular as ever.
I was greeted by an employee named Rosa Rodriguez, who happens to be the granddaughter of Rosa Juarez. I asked her about the loyal following the eatery has, and mentioned how many times these tacos had been recommended to me. “I believe it. You can definitely feel the love from our customers,” Rodriguez said. “They come back so often that a lot of times I know their order before they say anything.” I scanned the menu full of tacos, tortas, and chalupas, and placed my order.
The Secret Recipe at Rosita’s Al Pastor
By now, you’ve probably guessed what Rosita’s Al Pastor trailer specializes in. Throughout the rapid growth and expansion in Austin over the last three decades, the Rosita’s Al Pastor recipe for its famous al pastor has never changed. Rosa Juarez keeps her methods under lock and key.
Every morning, the al pastor is prepared at the restaurant. Grandma Rosa still gets her hands in there during the prep work. Along with other ingredients and supplies, the al pastor is then brought over to the trailer where it’s roasted to perfection on a spit. This is when Rodriguez let’s me in on some interesting information. “The food in the restaurant is delicious. There’s a full menu with everything you could want,” she said. “But, the tacos out here…they taste better. We haven’t been able to figure out why, but they’re better from the trailer.”
Taking a seat at one of the shaded picnic tables in front of the trailer, I see someone transporting a cart full of tortillas from the restaurant, a “mother ship” of sorts, to the trailer. I dig into my two al pastor tacos, which are topped with the traditional diced onions and cilantro. The meat is seasoned perfectly, bursting with flavor. It’s crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.
Each taco comes on a flour or corn tortilla, so tasty I can imagine myself happily eating them plain, by the dozen. Rodriguez tells me the best tortilla preparation practices have been passed down over the years, and the team at Rosita’s works hard to get it just right.
Each taco comes with green and red salsa on the side, both so delicious that I take home what’s left over to use on something–anything–later. The sauces are also, predictably, created by Grandma Rosa. Rodriguez fittingly refers to her as “the brains of the operation.”
The barbacoa and carne guisada tacos don’t disappoint, either. Both meats were tender, juicy, and flavorful. “You really can’t go wrong with any taco here,” Rodriguez said. Consider me a believer.
It’s All About the Family
There is an additional ingredient in Rosita’s Al Pastor’s recipe for success. “The food recipe is ours, but the work is in the cooks’ hands. They’re the ones who make the tacos extra delicious because they make them with love,” Rodriguez told me.
It’s the pride the cooks take in their work that has enabled Rosita’s Al Pastor to keep serving such delicious food over such a long period of time. Rodriguez isn’t the only family member involved. Her aunt, Jackie, currently manages the restaurant, and her uncle and both of her parents have played a huge role, as well.
“This is a tough business, but we have people who have been here since the beginning. It’s a blessing and we wouldn’t know what to do without them,” Rodriguez said. “We have great people around us, and that makes for great vibes.”
A secret family recipe, great vibes, and a delicious result–what more could you want? Next time you get that familiar craving, save yourself the research and head to Rosita’s Al Pastor food trailer. It’s an easy choice.
1911 E. Riverside Dr. – Yelp
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite thing at Rosita’s?
Jonas White has lived all over the country, but loves his new home city of Austin. He spends his time editing for a Danish publishing house and exploring the food scene, working his way down the list of recommendations he’s received. On weekends, Jonas can often be found showing off the city to his out-of-town friends who seem to always be visiting.
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