704 E. Pioneer Pkwy.
Arlington, TX 76010
- Meat: a well-balanced mix of smooth and honeycomb cuts, cooked to the perfect degree of tenderness.
- Hominy: as I asked for extra hominy, the hominy to meat ratio was slightly more than 1:1, but I personally like it that way.
- Broth: perfect level of saltiness and a bit of a spicy kick, not too watery, but not too thick. Slightly on the greasy side, which I prefer. (Probably from the fat that melted off the several small pieces of pork “pata” bone that were left in the broth for flavor.)
- Toppings: automatically comes with lime, onion, and jalapeño, but they were happy to add cilantro** (SEE ADDENDUM AT THE BOTTOM); the portions were just right.
- Tortillas: homemade flour or corn, soft and fresh; if bread is more your thing, they do that, too.
- Availability: any day of the week.
- Price: $7.95 for the medium and $9.95 for the large. The small for $6.95 is also available on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Pozole and I were out late for the free Brave Combo show at the Levitt Pavilion in downtown Arlington, which meant we slept in the following morning. When you get to be near forty years old, staying out past 10 PM is a feat. We even slept through the Oklahoma earthquake that was felt from the Dakotas all the way down to Houston, although I did wake up briefly to the odd sensation of the entire room shaking for a few seconds. I blamed it on a possible hangover and went back to sleep.
By the time we finally got out of bed, it was nearly 11 AM, and we were hungry. Extremely hungry. (Fortunately, I wasn’t hung over.) We were craving Mexican food, and when you’ve skipped breakfast, you don’t want to play Russian roulette with picking the right place. But we really didn’t have a choice, as we were still fairly new to the world of Mexican food in Arlington.
After a few Google searches, we settled on Los Pastores. It received good ratings, but we were particularly drawn to the retro-vintage exterior: yellow brick with “100% Mexicano” painted in quasi-Aztec green and red letters, accented with a pyramid and several palm trees, and a shiny stainless steel diner-style front door.
Upon walking in, it felt comfortable. It wasn’t too crowded, it smelled great and looked clean, and the Spanish-speaking staff invited us to sit anywhere we’d like. I did a quick scan and saw that it was mostly Mexican families. Always a good sign.
Star-shaped piñatas hung from the ceiling around the perimeter of the restaurant (probably for sale? I’ll ask next time), and one wall was an homage to a bit of Mexican history: an extra-large painting of a villager overlooking serene fields with the name of the restaurant painted prominently onto it, a map of Zacatecas, and a set of stock photography from the Mexican Revolution.
We ordered a couple of coffees and water (with very little ice) and checked out the menu. The Pozole had been in the mood for chorizo con huevos, but I decided I needed to jump right in and try the menudo. If the menudo is good, you can’t go wrong with the rest of the menu. When the waitress returned, she asked if the amount of ice was fine, and it was (they are attentive to detail!). We chatted with her and discovered Los Pastores had been around for twenty years. (Another good sign.) She welcomed us to town and asked us if we were ready to place our order.
Ordering menudo is an art form. After ordering it at over a dozen places, I’ve learned that you have to ask if pozole (hominy), sometimes referred to as the maíz, comes with the meat. It’s a rare occurrence, but there are places where all you get is a big bowl of tripe. The second thing I’ve learned is that you have to ask about the toppings. I think all menudo should always be served with onion, lime*, jalapeño, and cilantro, but some places leave out the cilantro. Although Los Pastores doesn’t automatically include cilantro as a topping, the waitress was happy to add that to my order.
(*TIP: Lime in Spanish is “limón.” If you want a lime, you ask for a “lima.”)
When the menudo arrived, it was love at first sight. I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this place on a regular basis. They’re also a “pastelería” (cake bakery), specializing in tres leches cakes that come in a variety of flavors. You can get menudo, cake, friendly service, and piñatas. What more do you need?
5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
**ADDENDUM – after several subsequent visits, I noticed they were inconsistent with the quantity/quality of the toppings. On one of my last visits there, when I asked for extra cilantro, they were still happy to bring me more. And it ended up costing me an extra $2.00. Sorry, Los Pastores, but this cost you 1 whole star.