I think we can all agree one of the best things about Mexico is a liberal hand with food safety. That grayish thing being served out of a vat on the street? Gimme.
Trompo, the vertical spit filled with chunks of achiote-and-chile-rubbed pork known in many other parts of Mexico as al pastor, is one of the greatest embodiments of this rule. In Mexico, it's perfectly fine to force pieces of raw pork into a loaf shape and allow them to cook slowly out in the open on a spit, before they're sliced directly into a taco. In Houston, this is illegal. That's why you don't see much trompo in the Bayou City. And when you do, it's Monterrey-style — crisped on a griddle, cooking it just a bit more for good measure.
As difficult as it is to find real-deal trompo, it's practically non-existent inside the Loop. Bless La Macro, then, for reopening its Northside restaurant (they also have a food truck) on Washington Avenue in August.
Entering the gate feels like stepping through a portal into Monterrey. A large patio is decorated with colorful graffiti and filled with comfy outdoor-friendly couches, a ping-pong table and flat-screen TVs. Inside, there's a small bar area with additional seating.
The friendly young lady staffing it is apparently already so accustomed to regulars that she asked me what I wanted to order without giving me a menu. Um, trompo, duh. But there was more to consider: other proteins include beef, chicken and fish. But even for those sticking strictly to pork, there are quesadillas, tacos, tortas, burritos, burgers, nachos and my personal favorite, taquizas, or mini tacos.
But I ordered none of the above—it was dinner and I wanted a full meal, so I asked for the "dinner plate," which included beans, rice and, purportedly, vegetables. The latter never materialized and the beans tasted suspiciously metallic. Taquizas next time, then.
To save my ordering misfire, I requested some pineapple and cilantro. The six corn tortillas that came with the dish were warm, soft and sturdy enough to hold plenty of pork and my additions despite the fact that the meat was sitting in a pool of grease. I tried to look beyond the puddle—the seasoning was salty with a pleasant smack of spice—but it unfortunately dominated.
I think my problem may have been that I was alone, in a bar, eating without alcohol. My experience hinged solely on the food not, well, the experience. My advice: Order taquizas, then order a beer. Watch the game with friends. Enjoy.