Dec 3, 2016, 7:32 PM
When foodies get together, there is usually a discussion of favorite restaurants around town. At a recent party, the host said, without blinking an eye, that the best restaurant in Patzcuaro is still Maurillo’s. Someone screamed, “carnes al pastor,” but all I could think of was Chile Perons.
A Perfect Place in Patzcuaro for Pollos al Pastor
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The Chile Peron is a Manzano pepper because it is shaped like an apple. It turns a bright yellow-orange when mature and is usually served fresh, and/or in a mild vinegar, since the thick skin is not suitable for drying.
Perons are hot, but fall in the middle of the Scoville Heat Scale: hotter than Serrano, but not as hot as Arbol. Remember this about peppers: With the heat, comes the flavor.
Manzano pepper plants are resistant to low temperatures and thrive in high altitudes. Perons are Patzcuaro’s perfect pepper.
On their way to the tables, starving patrons at Maurilio’s are forced to walk a gauntlet of fire-pits, with spit-grilling meats on both sides. There is a 4-ft. tall, 10’x4’ pit on one side and a smaller round pit on the other for those busy days. Interspersed among the coals were spits of chicken, ribs and sausage. Plus, an aroma of grilled oranges, but I didn’t see them anywhere.
In the middle of each of the red, checkered tablecloths are three bowls of sauces for your dining pleasure. There is a green avocado salsa with grated Serrano chilies; an extremely hot red salsa made with the local Chile de árbol; and a bowl of finely chopped, crisp onions with bright yellow, coarsely chopped Chile Perons with garlic and onions in vinegar.
The old adage is correct: Judge a restaurant by its sauces! That criteria alone pushes Maurillio's over the top.
Al pastor means “…in the style of the shepherd,” a dish developed in Central Mexico, likely as a result of the adoption of the shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. Lamb was first used, but al pastor now refers to any meat grilled on a vertical spit in front of an open fire.
Maurilio’s Carnes al Pastor has been around for about 100 years when it was at their ranch. They moved the restaurant to Patzcuaro about ten years ago, and kept it as a family operation with abuelita grilling her handmade tortillas, papa tending the roasting, the joven serving the food and mama keeping a close eye on everything. This is a home-grown operation.
Order the combo for a variety of grilled chicken, pork ribs and chorizo. I am not a fan of chorizo, since it is usually too fatty and greasy. Maurilio’s chorizo is perfectly grilled, with very little fat and no grease running down my chin. I could eat the costilla ribs until I popped, but the big surprise came from the marinade on the meats: orange juice. At that discovery, I looked at the firepit in time to see the grill master slice an orange in one whack, grab one half in each hand, and douse the sizzling meats.
Beans are served from a boiling cucucho pot, along with endless portions of fresh slaw made from thin slices of cucumbers, cabbage, carrots and lettuce, splashed with a citrus dressing. The sharpness of the slaw cleared the palate for the next mouthful of ribs. There’s plenty of homemade corn tortillas and their famous three sauces.
Maurilio’s Pollos al Pastor is located at the north side (lake side) of Patzcuaro, towards the muelle, at the end of Lazaro Cardenas, on the inside corner where it turns into the Morelia highway, directly across from the Pemex. It opens about 1pm, but the food is usually gone by 4pm, and sometimes earlier.
The place will not win a beauty contest, some call it a shack, but remember, you are at Maurilio's to eat.
A second Pollos place opened next to Maurillio’s, so read the sign and don't bother entering.
If you are solo and can’t eat a meal for six, order the half-chicken for $70 pesos and enjoy endless beans, salad and tortillas. The wing is king, so when served, grab it, drench it with salsa and you will know that Maurilio’s is the perfect place in Patzcuaro for pollos al pastor, plus pickled peron peppers.
Provecho, David Haun
The Michoacan Net
Supporting the Arts in Michoacan