100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 97, Caprichos Mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

What do you do when everything on the menu at one of your favorite taquerias sounds good? Why, you get a combo plate.

At Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito in the East End, the house specialty is the trompo. It's not cooked the "authentic" way here -- the pork rotating on a spit, gyro-style, with slices shaved off to order -- but it's still good. (You can find authentic trompo at Karanchos if you're interested.) The taqueria keeps the trompo spit in the refrigerator to comply with Health Department regulations, then shaves pieces of the bright achiote-colored pork off and grills them before placing them into homemade corn tortillas that are golden and nearly crisp from their own turn across the griddle.

Robb Walsh wrote of Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito's trompo tacos in 2006:

There were supposed to be five tacos on the plate, but at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito, they put so much meat on the tacos de trompo, it's difficult to see where one taco starts and the other leaves off. I squeezed a lime quarter over the whole mess and fished out a taco, doubling it over on the way to my mouth. The flavor of the thin, crispy pork was so peppery and salty, it almost tasted like sausage.

And the tacos are still served that way to this day, overflowing and almost painfully hot to the touch at first. On the caprichos mixtos platter, you get two trompo tacos and three tacos filled with fatty cubes of bistec that are even better when topped with some of Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito's mild green sauce. These aren't meant to be spicy, after all -- just appreciate the softness and savory pull of the meat against the assertive crunch of raw onions and herbal notes of cilantro. It's the simple things.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets

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Katharine Shilcutt