El Trompo Mexican Taqueria – Johns Creek

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

At the end of the year I usually take a few weeks off from this column to spend some time with family. Today I replay my review of El Trompo in Johns Creek.

Are they the best new restaurant of 2014? I’ve toiled over that question. The answer is that I just don’t know. But let’s say this… of all the new restaurants this year, I’ve been back to El Trompo the most. If you’ve not been, go have a few al pastor tacos today for lunch. Tell ‘em Lee sent ya.

Down in Roswell you’ll find a handful of authentic Mexican restaurants in rundown digs along highway 9. They offer some cheap yet delicious eats that are often overlooked by gringos accustomed to speedy gonzalez. And I’ll admit that the menu at these places can be somewhat intimidating. Lingua? Tripe? Yikes!

El Trompo signSo I was surprised to see one of these joints open shop in affluent Johns Creek. El Trompo quietly opened back in November, flying below many new restaurant radars (including mine). And like their Roswell brothern, don’t expect fancy digs. You’ll find these guys in a small stripmall space with nary a decoration or cheesy nicknack on the wall. About the only thing to look at is a television usually tuned to soccer, in Spanish.

The menu is simple – several different kinds of meat served either as a street tacos, tortas, quesadilla or burritos. Meats include carne asada steak, chicken, carnitas (fried pork), house-made chorizo and of course the spiced pork al pastor.

Start with the street tacos on your first visit. And be forewarned, these are small. You’ll get a corn tortilla about four inches in diameter topped with the meat of your choice, onions and cilantro. Four bites and it’s history so order several. At only $1.49 each you’re not going to break the bank. Mixing and matching is encouraged.

Don’t you dare set foot in El Trompo without trying al pastor in some form. The restaurant is named for the rotating spit traditionally used to cook the spiced pork. Unfortunately theirs is hidden in the kitchen and not on display for patrons to see. The dish and technique are distantly related to sharwarma, the middle eastern delicacy you’ve hopefully tried at Alpharetta’s Jerusalem Bakery.

El Trompo’s al pastor is fabulous. It’s exploding with flavor and spice that’s somewhat tempered with the sweetness of pineapple. Drizzle a bit of salsa verde atop the taco and you’re good to go.

Or try the al pastor tortas. These are manly, two-handed sandwiches that are a bit messy yet delicious. You’ll find the pork along with lettuce, tomato and avocado strips. The bread is slightly pressed but not to the point of resembling a Cuban. I liked my torta with a wee bit of Trompo’s habanero salsa. I’m talking drops of the stuff lest you cover up every bit of flavor.

The house-made chorizo is pretty good but not as spicy as I’m accustomed to. Carne Asada also isn’t bad but plays a distant second fiddle to the pork.

Avoid the fajitas. Perhaps they’re on the menu to appease less adventurous gringos. They were uninspiring. The refried beans tasted bland, in desperate need of salt. I doused my fajitas in that habanero salsa which turned things around.

All in all, El Trompo is a winner, a hidden gem in the rough waiting to be discovered. Forget what you think about Mexican cuisine and try some of these street tacos and tortas.

9 Responses to “El Trompo Mexican Taqueria – Johns Creek”

  1. Lisa December 19, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I wanted to like this place SO badly–al pastor tacos and burritos are probably in my top 5 favorite things to eat. So we went two Saturdays ago and…we must have gone on an off night–the pork in my pastor burrito was half gristle, and the chorizo in my taco was black and burned. One of the biggest disappointments I’ve had in a while, because I was so excited! :( Again, maybe we went on a bad night. The search for a great OTP taqueria with great al pastor continues…

  2. A December 19, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Never heard of El Trompo and don’t often get over to JC, but will definitely look for it next time we’re in the area after this recommendation. It’s not easy to find authentic Mexican food here in the ‘burbs, and you won’t catch me at those horrible La Parilla/El Azteca type places. So far Tara Humata and the El Felix over at Avalon are our favorites, along with the dearly departed Boga Taqueria, which we’re still sad about!

  3. Diego December 19, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    The relationship between shawarma and al pastor isn’t all that distant… Mexico had a huge Lebanese immigration. Salma Hayek is half Lebanese! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_immigration_to_Mexico

  4. Scott Douglas December 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    A bit of disappointment on our visit there. Probably ordered wrong. Just stuck with steak burritos. Charging extra for chips bothered us. Check out Los Hermanos on 141. Publix shopping center full service restaurant with very good authentic Mexican. Not very far away from Trompo.

  5. jb December 31, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    We like Mr Taco at Old Milton and Northside Pkwy. Good food and the price is great. I had Pastor there and thought it was very good.

  6. jb December 31, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Sorry make that Northpoint Pkwy.

  7. J December 31, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Has anyone tried Buzy Burrito on Hwy 9 between Mansell and Holcomb Bridge? It is the best Mexican I have found in the area.

  8. Cool Papa Bell January 2, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    J, both El Trompo and Buzy Burrito are sensational.

  9. bob eskew January 2, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    i tried this restaurant and it was great. i agree that the decor could be more trendy but that didn’t stop my taste buds from having a great time. i would recommend.

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