La Alteña (address and info)
What you're getting: Al Pastor
La Alteña has been open for 35 years, and their kitchen-minders -- Alfredo and Roberto -- have been there for 25 and 22 of those years, respectively. They may not speak much English, but these guys know how to cook. The al pastor -- a shawarma-style wheel of pork marinated in dried chiles, spices, and pineapple popular in Central Mexico -- has a jambalaya-feel to it with its depth of rich, spicy flavor, and the meat is moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside... the way it was meant to be.
Chava’s (address and info)
What you're getting: Carnitas Taco
You won't be able to put down the carnitas taco at Chava’s. Homemade tortillas are one reason why, and the carnitas are the other -- they're fried to crunchy perfection, not shredded like you find at most places (it's not wrong, just different). The chips and salsa are standard stuff, but the wide beer selection will put you in a forgiving mood. Elba, who only speaks Spanish, has been working there for over two decades (in a ladylike move, she declines to specify how many years). Started in 1976, Chava’s moved from 28th and Shotwell to its current location 11 years ago, and has become a neighborhood favorite. While the family that owns Chava’s is from Guadalajara, the food is a mix of Mexican traditions. For the record, her favorite is the carne de chiles.