Tacos still lead the way as the quintessential Dallas food, standing proudly next to smoked brisket and the ever popular burger. We have waved through the many varieties in the area, including those filled with smoky and crispy bugs and larvae, but the best tacos seem to come off the trompo. The tacos al pastor de trompo is the conical-shaped meat stack that is most likely constructed in the back room of the restaurant by layering thin slices of marinated pork.
The meat used to contruct the trompo is often leg meat or pork butt, marinated in achiote, chili peppers, garlic, onion and pineapple juice for several days. The trompo is made with layers of the seasoned pork on a large vertical skewer which looks much like a child’s spinning top (thus the name trompo) and placed on a vertical skewer as p char the outer layers of the meat very much like a Greek gyro. The trompo more than likely has Lebanese roots, as there is a large population of Lebanese-Hispanics in Mexico. The trompo is thought to have actual ties to another food, the shawarma.
Top the 50 or 60 pound cone of meat with a large pineapple and spin away while large flames from the charcoal kiss the meat adding yet another layer of flavor as the juice of the pineapple enrich the marinade further. Once a taco order is placed, small slivers of the pork are taken to a side grill to finish off the cooking process, but not too much or the bits will be rendered dry and tough. The taquero, the taco chef, has a great and proud responsibility, and can totally make or break your taco-loving experience.
We found one of the better trompos last week while passing through Henderson Avenue at El Atoron, the tiny taqueria located at 2023 N Henderson. The trompo is brought outdoors on the weekends where the taquero tends to his fire and taunts the neighborhood with his delicious smelling grilled meat. This guy is engaging, and high on taco talent. This is the best taco we have tasted in Dallas. The meat is juicy, well marinated and charred but not dry with too much chew. The requisite double stack of tortillas are placed on a plancha for mere moments to give them a slight yielding crispness, and you are allowed to dress your own with the provided grilled onions and pineapple to create one very ecstatic taco. Add a squirt of the house-made creamy verde salsa and you have the ultimate Dallas taco love.
You may find the El Atoron trompo in play all weekend, usually until just after 2am where Senor Taquero flies through at least one and a half cones.That is a plethora of tacos.