Veracruz Toll Road

Different Styles of Cabrito in Mexico

Cabrito al Pastor - The Shepherd-style Meat Fit For Kings and Queens

Cabrito leg on table

To me, there is no finer dish than a properly-prepared goat on a spit. I will drive hundreds of miles out of my way to try a newly discovered cabrito al pastor restaurante.

While some will swear that the "best" cabrito comes from Monterrey, they just don't know the whole country. The best-known cabrito is sold in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, but many states have better cabrito. It's a personal thing. I don't diss one restaurant's cabrito, I just have my favorites. Wherever you can find it, cabrito is a treat. Warning - you may not be able to find cabrito in any form in the late Fall (Oct-Nov) in many places. Saltillo, Coahuila always seems to have it, as does Monterrey, but in other parts of the country, supply is spotty.

I've asked several restauranteurs and the ones who have goat seem shocked that somebody else doesn't. Those who don't have any goats to get swear it is "not the temporada (season)." It's one of those little mysteries that make Mexico so special. So often, there is no logical explanation for things. Yet, you will get two, three or a dozen different explanations, each with its own portion of the truth. Don't try to reason things out. It will only make your head hurt.

Different ways to cook cabrito

There are different ways to cook your goat, just as there are different ways to get it. The book, La Senda del Cabrito, written by Juan Ramón Cárdenas (of the family that owns my favorite cabrito restaurant in the world - Meson Principal in Saltillo, Coahuila) is a wonderful resource for those who want to know more about the history and raising and cooking of this amazing dish. The book is in Spanish and available at the restaurant, but maybe at Sanborn's stores. 

The Secret To Cooking Cabrito

Cabrito al pastor, or young goat, is roasted on a spit over open coals (often from mesquite wood). Surprisingly, cabrito al pastor does not have a smoky flavor. Cabrito al pastor is cooked for 6 hours and is turned every 15-20 minutes. No seasoning is added. There are a few variations on this, but the taste comes from the meat, not seasonings. The secret is to turn it often and not let hot spots develop.

La Senda del Cabrito front cover
The definitive book on cabrito

From  farming to preparing, this is a history and story of how cabrito is raised and prepared. 

Plate of cabrito
Cabrito dish, "La Pierna"

You are either a leg person (pierna) or a breast person (pecho). Leg is dark meat and breast is white meat. There is also the costilla (ribs).

Cabrito restaurants meson principal - la estrella de dimas
La Estrella de Dimas SLP

This restauant had some of the best cabrito in Mexico. But it may no longer exist. Detailed directions are below, but ask locally as well. Then let me know. 

My favorite Cabrito al Pastor restaurants in N. Central Mexico

Saltillo, Coahuila - El Mesón Principal on Hwy 40 just before the interchange coming into town on the right. It is across from the big shopping center. Their web site is great. They have more variety to their menu than most cabrito restaurants. They serve steak (most all do) but also dishes regional to Coahuila and alta cocina (haute cuisine) and international dishes. So a non-goat lover (that does not sound right) will be happy there, though vegetarians will find something to eat, just not a lot of choices. El Mesón Principal has been around for more than 50 years. Blvd V. Carranza y Ave. Egipto, Col. Virreyes Residencial C.P. 25230 Saltillo, Coah., Mexico, Tel.: (844) 415 00 15 y 415 34 21. They often have specials on Sundays. Free Wifi at tables. 

There is supposed to be a more humble, less expensive restaurant near the bus station, El Chivero, but I have not been there yet. 

Matehuala SLP - Two excellent cabrito restaurants. El Mezquite, across from Las Palmas Hotel / RV Park and one on the highway, just before the toll bypass coming from the north.   

Before your salivary glands go into overdrive, make sure this restaurant still exists. When updating this page, found out their website was gone. The last two times I was in San Luis Potosi, nobody was sure if it was open or not. I drove around and could not find it. But let's just hope I was having one of my " lost" days and missed it."

San Luis Potosi cityLa Estrella de Dimas, south of the old bypass of San Luis Potosi on Hwy 57 and north of the new one. They close at 5 PM.

Do not be gulled by places, both in the USA and Mexico that just advertise cabrito. There are various forms of cabrito, not all of which might tickle your fancy or your palette. The main forms of cabrito are: al horno (oven baked), en birria (stew), en salsa (in sauce). The ones least likely to appeal to most people are cabrito en sangre (blood) and machito (it's complicated). Machito probably tops en sangre for least appetizing, but it is that taste thing again. In Texas, machito is called "Texas Haggis." Machito is the innards of a goat (heat, lung, kidneys etc.) wrapped in the ever appealing tela or visceral lining and tied together with a bit of tripa (small intestine) to make a pretty package. I like odd foods, but that is even odder than I am. Machito is supposed to be an aphrodisiac, if you could find anyone who would kiss you after you ate that.

The owner of El Meson del Cabrito in Saltillo, Coahuila, told me in an interview that the cooking method is pretty much the same no matter where you eat cabrito. What makes the different tastes is where the goats were raised and what they ate. I happen to like his cabrito al pastor above El Rey in Monterrey, but that is my opinion. Go to both and see for yourself.

Most people think the best cabrito in Mexico comes from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. I beg to differ. I think there is good cabrito in many places. Most people just don't know to look elsewhere.

I have eaten hundreds of portions of cabrito al pastor in my life, all over Mexico. I used to rate cabrito restaurants as being "the best." That was fruitless. "Best" is a matter of personal taste. So now I just say that these are among the best I have had.

Caveat for Cabrito?

Before your salivary glands go into overdrive, make sure this restaurant still exists. When updating this page, found out their website was gone. There was no answer to their phone, but that is not unusual. The last two times I was in San Luis Potosi, nobody was sure if it was open or not. I drove around and could not find it. But let's just hope I was having one of my "lost" days and missed it. 

There is (or possibly was) an excellent cabrito restaurant, La Estrella de Dimas back towards town, 4 miles. The restaurant is on the right, just before an intersection with Eje 126. Exit at Eje 130 to lateral. Address is Carretera Querétaro – San Luis Potosi, KM 8 (or Av. Benito Juarez #192). Phone is 444-824-1914 (though it does not always ring). Just past the restaurant is a hotel on the right (Hotel 88) that is medium-priced. If you see a Ford dealer, you have gone 2.2 miles too far. 

Be careful because there is another restaurant farther towards town also named La Estrella de Dimas and it is a buffet with no cabrito.