One visit. One meal. One shot to get it right: Trompo
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES
Luis Olvera likes tacos. And he wants you to like tacos, too.
In fact, the outside of his brand-new West Dallas taqueria Trompo still boasts the awning from the space’s previous owner, Mr. Phil’s Bar-B-Que; Trompo’s name is only etched on the door itself, with the hours of operation and Olvera’s philosophy: “Eat more tacos.” And might as well eat his, right?
For those used to eating high-end tacos at gourmet eateries like Stampede 66 or even Urban Taco, the setting of Trompo may come as a disappointment. Located about a mile off the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, it’s near the expanding Design District, right on the edge of the exciting Trinity Groves development, but there’s a bootstrap independence that marks it as more mom-and-pop than corporate. Heck, even by neighborhood taqueria standards, its décor is sparse — i.e., nonexistent. White walls, a mini-fridge, some stools at a counter and a bathroom sign represent the only furnishing in the utilitarian dining area, other than the placard that announces the full menu: three tacos (beef, pork and vegetarian), three quesadillas (beef, pork or both). Oh, and two salsas, Topo Chico and Mexican Coke. That’s it.
That’s all you need.
The restaurant is named for the trompo (Spanish for “top”) — the vertical rotisserie onto which strata of pork are layered, marinated in paprika, roasted and shaved off into the doubled corn tortillas. (The logo for the restaurant is an abstract swirl that suggests a tornado, but is in fact a trompo itself.) Start there: The pork is as fiery-red as an arbol chile, with a crispy, even crunchy char. There is a dusting of onions and cilantro, a modest wedge of lime on the side. Add some salsa if you care to (rojo and verde — both excellent), but everything you need is right there. A signature taco that encapsulates a brand, a style … all in two or three mouthfuls.
The bistek is equally wonderful, if not more so. Shreds of moist, braised beef glistening from the fat of the meat and seasoned simply but effectively. There’s even a vegetarian option of poblano and paneer (Indian peasant cheese), prepared with just as much thoughtfulness and flavor. And each for $1.85.
At more than twice as much (but still cheap), the quesadilla ($3.85) isn’t what you’re probably used to at Tex-Mex joints: Two tortillas sandwiching meat and cheese between their layers. Cheese is the big addition, but here’s it’s more akin to a taco (gringa is pork, pirata is beef, campuchana is a combo) housed on a large single flour tortilla, grilled to a leathery texture and loaded up like a militia in the Pacific Northwest. These are good sharing foods — keep it to yourself, and have a few tacos, too. You’ll still spend less than a Hamilton for it.
Olvera has some streamlining to do. The storefront has barely been opened a month, and there are some growing pains in getting the food out fast (and, for instance, bringing the drink before the tacos so we have something to occupy our time with while waiting). But he’s already got the food right.
Trompo, 839 Singleton Blvd. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Find it on Facebook.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2016.