For the last few months now, Saul O'Bregon Banda—the affable owner of Taqueria La Macro—has been hard at work on a mostly secret expansion that will more than triple the square footage of his popular Northside taqueria. This morning on Twitter, O'Bregon mentioned a "mini shut-down" ever so briefly, but the shut-down will last more than a day or two.
"We're closing down tonight and reopening on Monday," O'Bregon said when I visited today at lunch for my regular taquizas de trompo fix. He let me peek into the space next door which will house La Macro's expanded dining room, bar, and live music area (he's already booked the salsa band that played every Thursday at Taco Milagro before it closed last month), which he's been hard at work on for months.
"I've been here until 5 o'clock in the morning," a weary-looking O'Bregon smiled, "and doing most of the work myself." The work is already paying off: the new dining room with vibrant pastel walls, gleaming tile floors, and newly stained chairs is beautiful. More importantly, it means that La Macro will now take up the entire, long endcap in a strip center that was stagnant before O'Bregon made his home there.
When O'Bregon first opened in early 2012, the tiny restaurant off North Main and Hogan was more than enough to host the initial trickle of diners who peeked in to investigate the shiny new taqueria amidst a neighborhood in transition. They stayed when they noticed La Macro's trompo, where thick ribbons of ruddy, achiote-hued pork spun slowly ("trompo" in Spanish means "top," like a child's toy) underneath a huge, goldenrod chunk of pineapple, its juices dripping down onto the meat as it rotated below.
This real-deal trompo is difficult to find in Houston, and most restaurants that offer tacos de trompo are pulling the meat out of a fridge, heating it on a grill, and slapping it on tortillas. Not so at La Macro, where O'Bregon hired a 40-year trompo veteran from Mexico named Pascual to do one job only: tend the trompo as he had back home. O'Bregon also hired a staff of smiling, friendly waitresses from the neighborhood and stocked the small restaurant with an ample selection of beer and wine. Soon, the warm and welcoming taqueria was the hit of the Northside—and beyond.
Taqueria La Macro was recently given a place of distinction alongside other longtime Houston favorites such as Himalaya, Saigon Pagolac, Bon Ga, and London Sizzler as one of the stops on the Houston Culinary Tours. The tours, a joint venture between the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau and a handful of Houston's hottest chefs, take passengers on day-long food crawls that spotlight the favorite restaurants of Houston chefs. Many of the restaurants are ethnic spots, and most are decidedly inexpensive.
The recent June 23 tour saw chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions taking a pack of 20-odd visitors on a taco tour, which included stops at Brothers Taco House, Tacos Tierra Caliente, and Taqueria La Macro—as if the place wasn't already crowded enough. O'Bregon had already sought to combat overcrowding by building a handsome porch out front a few months back, but it wasn't cutting it during busy lunch and dinner rushes.
Luckily, the convenience store next door was on its last legs, and their mutual landlord asked O'Bregon if he wanted to move in. The deal was settled quickly so that O'Bregon could get to work. All these months later, he's almost ready for the expanded La Macro's closeup. O'Bregon plans a very soft opening this coming Monday, but stresses that it's anything but a grand opening. He knows full well the super-sized La Macro, with full bar, will be working out some kinks.
But while the grand opening is still a few weeks (or maybe months) away, the important thing is this: Although La Macro will be closed for the next five days, you'll be able to get your trompo fix once again on Monday, July 8.