Taquería El Pastorcito

Caitlin Fitch

Taquería El Pastorcito

What the Heck Am I Eating?

A Guide to the Myriad Tacos Available in Santa Barbara

If you don’t speak Spanish, it is not uncommon to stare down a taco menu and wonder what exactly it is that you are about to order. What follows is a quick and dirty guide for the taco layperson, a field guide to what exactly is wrapped in that warm, soft corn tortilla.

Adobada: Marinated pork, often done in a red chili sauce.

Al Pastor: Shawarma-inspired, spit-roasted pork cut thin and typically served with grilled pineapple and onion.

Barbacoa: Historically, this is the meat from a cow head wrapped in leaves and slow-cooked over an open flame or in a cook pit. In the States, however, it is a slow-braised and shredded beef that has been tenderized and then pulled apart. It is often cooked in mixture of chicken broth and/or a soda of some sort, and mixed with cumin, garlic, and other herbs. The end result is beef that seems to be steamed or smoked as well as grilled.

Birria: Goat.

Buche: Broiled or steamed pig stomach/esophagus.

Cabeza: Meat from roasting or steaming a cow head.

Cachete: Steamed cheek, generally from a cow.

Carne asada: Mildly marinated and grilled steak. Typically rib or sirloin cuts.

Carnitas: Pork shoulder seasoned with lard and herbs then braised and pulled apart before being oven roasted until lightly crisp.

Cecina: Dried and salted, jerky-like beef.

Chicharrón: Fried pigskin and/or pork belly.

Chorizo: Spicy pork sausage.

Chuleta: Pork chop.

Labios: Steamed lip.

Lengua: Steamed cow tongue, often braised or browned first.

Ojo: Steamed cow eye.

Pescado: Fish, typically a white fish of some sort. More often than not, talapia in California.

Pollo: Chicken.

Rajas: Roasted poblano chiles cut into strips and served with cooked onions and cheese.

Suadero: A thin cut of beef, usually from the trapezius muscle or thereabouts, that has been stewed and then lightly grilled. Similar to carnitas.

Tripas: The small intestine of a cow or pig that has been cleaned, boiled, and then grilled.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Wife Recalls Husband’s Arrest By ICE Agents in Goleta

She said Jorge was convicted of a DUI 15 years ago but has stayed out of trouble ...

Supervisors Adopt New FEMA Flood Map for Montecito and Carpinteria

It’s not perfect, they say, but it will help people rebuild more safely.

Chumash Leaders Rebury Tuqan Man on San Miguel Island

Tests indicate the remains are between 9,700 and 10,200 years old

Eastside Group Tackles Diabetes

UCSB premed student steps up to fight childhood obesity.

Juana Holzer Testifies Against Ex-Husband

She denied Holzer showed any signs of mental illness during their six-year marriage.