I've lived in Houston for 22 years. It took me 16 of those to visit the Rothko Chapel for the first time. I didn't eat at Ninfa's on Navigation until I'd counted myself a Houstonian for nearly a decade. I still haven't eaten at Frenchy's. The list of glaring omissions goes on and on. Before you boot me from the city for civic negligence, or at least refuse to continue allowing me to write about Houston food, let me assure you that 2014 is the year I start fixing this problem. I'm making a list of places. Places I should have been by now. Places even I can't believe I haven't visited. This is the year I get (re)acquainted with my city. Maybe you'll find a few from your own list in these posts. I encourage you to follow suit.
Before my Vegan Lent started, there was a flurry of taco-related activity in my household. We must have had tacos six or seven times in a little more than a week. I grabbed tacos for lunch after a drive to the country to visit our niece. I grabbed tacos for a late breakfast after my youngest daughter's gymnastics class. On a midweek day off, I decided to fill the trompo void that had been slowly sucking away my anima. I think I got to Taqueria La Macro just ahead of the event horizon.
A funny story about Taqueria La Macro: A few weeks ago, I was on a ride-along with my nephew, a patrol officer with HPD. At around three in the morning, responding to a call about a man with a knife walking along the light-rail tracks, we found ourselves over by La Macro. I pointed it out, telling my nephew he really needed to go get tacos there some time. He started laughing.
Tacos are serious business, so I was confused by his response. He explained that, some months back, he'd pulled over a BMW full of teenagers on a traffic stop, right around the corner from La Macro. They were from Beaumont. They told him they had driven all the way into town for tacos, as they'd heard a place right around the corner had some of the best in the city. He hadn't bought their story, assuming that they were looking for drugs. He sent them on their way, and didn't give it much thought until I pointed the place out that morning. I think he believes their story now. After having been to La Macro, I can safely say I'd be willing to drive an hour for trompo.
At around noon, the place was pretty much empty when we walked in. The lady behind the counter explained their order system, showing us the lotería cards that usually serve as order numbers. Since the restaurant was empty, she told us we could have a seat, and she'd just bring our food to us. I really wanted El Borracho. Maybe next time.
This story continues on the next page.
Trying to cover some bases, all of which were covered with trompo, my wife ordered a plate of tequilas, and I snagged a trompi-burger. I also got a sole taco de trompo on the side, fearing my wife wouldn't be overly fond of sharing hers. I was right.
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To be honest, the trompi-burger was a bit of a letdown. I'd been expecting a more hedonistic experience, but it was a rather tame affair. The thin hamburger patty really didn't add much to the sandwich, and the trompo itself got a bit lost in the mix of buttery, cottony bun and melted cheese. Toward the middle, where the trompo was piled more generously, the sandwich improved considerably. A few judicious jots of the simple but stellar chile de arbol salsa (a rare example of a red salsa that trumps its green counterpart) also help reinforce the dusky, fruity elements of the trompo. Still, if trompo is why you're here, you may find yourself lamenting stuffing it unceremoniously into a burger. The taco, on the other hand, was incredible.
Dusky, slightly smoky, and boasting a bright current of acidity, the trompo shone when simply swaddled in a tortilla with the standard accompaniment of cilantro and onion. Tender but meaty-textured, there was none of the mushiness that sometimes afflicts meat cooked or marinated with pineapple (curse you, bromelain!) The meat was juicy and flavorful enough not to require salsa lubrication, but that chile de arbol salsa begged to be used. If I had to guess, it's not much more than a purée of chiles and water, with maybe a bit of lime juice, but it complemented the taco perfectly, highlighting the slight caramelized sweetness from the pineapple, and reinforcing the smoky, meaty flavor of the pork.
I was right to order my own taco on the side. Though my wife had two taquizas topped with the beautiful burnished pork, she was loath to relinquish a single bite. She did gamely allow a bite of each of her other tacos, because she believes in science. Those tacos (beef and chicken fajita, barbacoa) were fine, but paled next to the trompo. I actually found myself guarding the stray bits that tumbled from my burger, when my wife finished her diminutive pair.
We swore then and there to work La Macro into our (ir)regular taco rotation, but we haven't been back since. Once Lent is behind us, though, I'll be putting that trompo through its paces. I think I need to bring my nephew along.