After showcasing his al pastor skills on three separate occasions at the food cart at The Garage in the last month, Justino Jimenez is getting ready to move into a storefront at 2654 South 6th St. (the former Vinny’s South Philly Sandwich Shop on the corner of 6th and Oregon).
“Soon, soon,” Jimenez told me of his plans to open his own place when I spoke with him about the story behind his tacos al pastor. He recently signed a lease and preparations are in full swing for a targeted opening date of April 1st. “If everything goes well, but I’m pretty confident,” he says when I press him about that date. His shop should add another destination along a stretch of Oregon that includes the avenue’s namesake diner and the recently opened South Bowl Philly. Hours are tentatively set for 5p.m. to 11p.m. or 12a.m.
He was busy hitting up a hardware store when I spoke to him on Monday, his day off from the line at Vetri Ristorante.
He has worked there for a combined 4 years (2001-2002; 2012-present) over two separate stints (he was at Amis from 2010-2012). He’ll finish at Vetri on March 22nd after giving his one month notice.
His signature spit roasted, marinated pork will be the main attraction at Los Jimenez Mexican Cocin.
“Yeah, that’s my goal, ” he says, adding that the open kitchen will put the deliquescent, reddish orange, hand turned pastor on full display, along with the other meats he’s going to use for tacos.
“I’m going to do suadero, chorizo, machitos–that’s what we call tripe in Mexico.” “I’m going to do more stuff but these things are going to be my signature–the stuff that’s going to be here all the time,” he says.
That includes two things he had this past Sunday at The Garage: pizza al pastor (marinated pork on pita with sliced pineapple, sour cream, onions, cilantro) and delicious mini churros with just the right amount of chew.
While the pork for his al pastor is elevated by a simple marinade (a paste of chili de arbol, guajillo peppers, onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf applied to seasoned and orange juice soaked pork), he’s going to keep it pretty basic to pull rich flavors from the other meats that he uses.
“A real simple style,” he says. “Lemon juice, salt, pepper–that’s it. Simple. Yep. ”
“I’m going to leave the meat to speak for itself. ”
Of course, Philly already has a lot of tacos places, and there are others set to open soon.
“I want to try to do it different than everybody else. The flavors. I’m going to do specials. I’m going to go more national. That’s the thing I’m thinking I’m going to do differently right now,” Jimenez says.
In addition to regional specialities like carnitas from Michoacán or tacos de canasa (basket tacos with different types of filling) from Mexico City, he wants to dive into the variations in flavor that you can get going house to house anywhere in Mexico.
His specials and baskets tacos are two avenues for playing with nuance and showing the skills he picked up as well as the creativity that grew while working within the Vetri Family.
He certainly doesn’t have to do anything else to his tacos al pastor*.
*I went into more detail here on why they’re the best in the city.
[Correction: Previously listed as Los Jimenez Mexican Cocina, the name was corrected to Los Jimenez Mexican Cocin after I actually read the sign]