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Meat cooked on a vertical spit often lends itself to some of the most beautiful meals in the world of street food. Just hear the word shawarma and visions of charred but supple lamb paint the back of your cortex, while the phantom scent of rosemary tickles your nose.
The technique got even more attractive when it made its way to Mexico, where pork replaced lamb, chilies replaced herbs and the spinning tower of meat took on the name trompo.
The problem with trompo -- and all vertical-spit cooking, really -- is that the device has to actually spin to produce the most delicious meat. It's only when there's a long line of customers that trompo tacos are at their best. Demand keeps the gas burners blaring and the meat hissing and spitting as it chars. But if there are no customers in line, the trompo goes idle. So does the flavor.
To find the best trompo tacos you must find the busiest trompo, which is easy since Bachman Lake Taqueria is consistently mobbed. Come during lunch and the dining room is full of customers bathing in the smells of roasting pork while they douse their tacos with sturdy salsa.
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In the back, cooks thread huge sheets of fatty meat, dripping in marinade, onto the long vertical spits. The finished cones look disturbing and even a bit obscene, but after roasting a while you'll start to come around. It's almost hypnotizing as it spins like some giant carnal music box ornament.
Yes, you will be having the trompo tacos today, won't you?
Me too. Extra crispy, please.
No. 50: Joyce and Gigi's No. 49: East Hampton Sandwich Co. No. 48: 20 Feet Seafood Joint No. 47: Taj Chaat House No. 46: Mot Hai Ba No. 45: La Nueva Fresh and Hot No. 44: Pera Turkish Kitchen No. 43: Tom's Burgers and Grill No. 42: Mughlai No. 41: Russian Banya No. 40: Off-Site Kitchen