Bon Appetit magazine has just released its annual roundup of the top 50 new restaurants around the country, and one Dallas establishment made it onto the list. Which one could it be — Uchi? Filament? Sprezza?
No, none of those — and it's not Stephan Pyles Flora Street at Hall Arts, which opened after the magazine's deadline had passed. To compile their list, Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton and Julia Kramer (deputy editor and senior editor, respectively) considered establishments that debuted from May 2015 through May 2016.
Trompo, a tiny taqueria on Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas, was the establishment celebrated by Bon Appetit. There, the editors found "some of the best tacos we've had all year." The 4-month-old eatery, which shares a parking lot with Chihuahua Tire Shop on a gritty stretch of Singleton a few blocks west of Trinity Groves, beat out local restaurants including Rapscallion, Top Knot, Madrina, Wayward Sons, the Theodore and Montlake Cut to nab the spot.
With just an ordering window, two small tables and six stools at a counter, and not much in the way of decor (other than an aquarium gurgling near the counter), the bare-bones storefront has a succinct menu of three tacos (trompo, which is pork; bistek; and poblano-paneer, $1.85 each) and three quesadillas (trompo; gringa, which is beef; and a combo, $3.85 each). To drink, there are bottled Mexican and American sodas, no aguas frescas. The day the list was released, all the seats were taken at lunchtime; three dedicated taco-seekers, paper plates on their laps, sat on the floor.
From a national perspective, said Knowlton in a phone interview, "I want my list to be quirkier." Last year, Dallas' Small Brewpub and Luscher's Red Hots made his top 50. Knowlton said he was taken with owner Luis Olvera's passion and "this weird location, and that they did one thing and they did it well."
I agree that Trompo's tacos, which Bon Appetit calls "simple but surreal," are very good. They're Monterrey-style street tacos — made with corn tortillas griddled in a little oil, dressed with onion and cilantro and served with half a key lime. Squeeze bottles of excellent salsa verde and roasty salsa roja are there to add zingy fire.
I love the al pastor, filled with pork shaved from the trompo (vertical spit), for which Olvera named the place. The pork, which happily isn't too sweet (it often is), reminds me in flavor, texture and color of Chinese barbecue. Delicious. The bistek is spot-on, too.
But to my taste, the tortillas — not made in-house but brought in — keep the tacos from being spectacular. The vegetarian taco — filled with paneer cheese and nicely roasted poblano chiles — was tasty but pretty oily; I preferred the poblano-paneer quesadilla, open-faced and deliciously messy.
Trompo is a sweet, minimalist spot with a cheerful disposition and very friendly prices, a place I'd happily eat at every week or so. But to be quite honest, it doesn't strike me as a taqueria worthy of national recognition.
A whittled-down list of this year's "hot 10" will be announced Aug. 16 and will be featured in Bon Appetit's September issue.
Correction: August 16, 2016
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly referred to the pork tacos and quesadillas as al pastor. They are filled with trompo pork.