Al pastor excellence in southside OKC.
When Guadalupe “Lupe” Garcia was 11 years old, he told his father — the owner of Chelino’s — that he wanted to go to work. “My 17-year-old brother had just bought a Playstation 2,” he remembers, “and I asked him how he got it because I wanted one. ‘I saved money from work and bought it,’ he told me. I went straight to my father and told him I was ready to go to work.”
He’s been in kitchens pretty much ever since, with the exception of one semester at Oklahoma City Community College when he thought he wanted to be a software engineer. “I only worked 11-4 on Saturdays at first; I was still in school, and I hated it at first, but looking back I appreciate how my father handled it. He made me start with bussing and dishwashing to learn every aspect of the business.”
Garcia never became a software engineer, but he is still a self-described nerd, and instead of leaving tech behind, he has found a way to incorporate it in his own restaurant: Trompudo’s Tacos at 6015 S. May Ave. It’s still a very rare kind of restaurant in OKC — a southside taqueria with a full bar — and it’s also one of the very few places in the city that carves “al pastor” (grilled or roasted pork) straight from a “trompo” or spit.
After the liquor laws changed in 2018, low-point beer disappeared, and so did beer lists in southside taquerias. The new law required an upgrade in licensing, and many owners simply passed, sticking to tacos with aguas frescas, agua de jamaica and horchata, as well as Topo Chico and sodas. Garcia opened last year without a bar, but his plan always included margaritas, palomas, craft cocktails and beer. He finalized everything in March, and started bar service late that month.
The bar list was built with input from guests; Garcia put a form at the register so his regulars could let him know what beers they wanted on the list. “I have all three Coronas, because I love Corona, but all the others came from customer suggestions,” Garcia said. Customer service is always uppermost in his mind. In fact, Trompudo’s started as an idea that emerged from Garcia’s habit of studying other restaurants.
“I’m fascinated by Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle,” he said. “I’ve been involved in restaurants long enough now to know the ups and downs of full service, and even before COVID, quick service restaurants (QSR) looked like it would be the next model for food service. Since COVID, it’s the most obvious choice. Full service will never go away, but QSR makes the most sense right now.”
Garcia made a series of trips to Mexico between 2017 and 2021 that shaped what Trompudo’s has become. He went to Mexico City to try the openair taquerias with multiple trompos. (“I still can’t replicate what they’re doing down there, but I’m trying,” he said.) He took a course on chiles in Gunajuato, and ate al pastor tacos for days with his girlfriend in Playa del Carmen. A trip to Vegas introduced him to Tacos el Gordo, where they craft salsas to go with each taco. Garcia loved the approach, and he’s incorporated it at Trompudo’s.
Suadero, the other house specialty besides al pastor, came from a trip to Mexico City. “Suadero was everywhere down there, and so I asked about it, and the moment I tried it, I knew I’d use it here.”
The problem was getting a local supplier, but Garcia found a specialty supplier that can guarantee a steady supply. That development will be important for the future, because like Garcia, once people taste the Suadero tacos, they get hooked. The cut comes from a portion of the cow between the belly and leg on either side of the udders. It’s a very fine cut with a silky smooth mouthfeel and intense beef flavor, like cheek without the oiliness. It’s so difficult to get regularly that many taquerias will substitute brisket, but the flavor and texture are not the same.
The menu also includes carne asada, carnitas, and spicy house-made chorizo. All the meats can be ordered on tacos, burritos, mulitas, quesadillas and tortas. The salsas are designed to be paired with specific meats, but feel free to improvise.
As for the name, Garcia — a reader and a nerd — tells the story of Ray Kroc, the famous founder of McDonald’s, who told his team, “I need a name. It’s the most important thing.” Garcia wanted to avoid what he calls the standard taqueria name: someone’s first name plus “tacos.”
Everywhere I go, I find a Lupe’s Tacos,” he said. “My girlfriend even found one in Puerto Rico. Since the trompo is my focus here, I used a play on words with Trompudo. It’s a person with big lips. People ask me every day, ‘Where is Trompudo?’ We laugh.”
You won’t find Trompudo in Trompudo’s Tacos, but you will find the city’s best tacos, paired with some of the best salsas you’ve ever had. And be sure to try the Mango-Chamoy Margarita.