EL TROMPO (277A Augusta, at Oxford, 416-260-0097) Complete snacks for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of sorrel-scented iced tea. Average main $9. Open Tuesday to Thursday 11 am to 8 pm, Friday 11 am to 9 pm, Saturday noon to 9 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Located a few doors north of Em Porio Latino, El Trompo has long been one of NOW's favourite finds.
We were converted the moment we encountered Chicarron de Queso, a gossamer-thin slice of gridled Monterrey jack that cost all of $1.50.
Since then, new owners of the gaudily decorated spot have upped the price of this breadless grilled cheese sandwich - advertised on their menu, "as seen on Breakfast Television!" (like, who hasn't been?) - to $3.99. It's just as tasty, but it ain't worth four bucks.
A pair of plastic forks accompany the house guacamole ($6.25). Small-portioned and served in a cheap Melmac-type bowl, the roughly puréed avocado comes accented with red onion and sided with commercial-tasting corn chips that look like they could have originated from the new supermarket down the street.
The old El Trompo prided itself on purveying true Mexico City street food. Tex-Mex rice 'n' refried beans were literally never on the card. But while they make a great snack, both Tacos al Pastor, four small tortillas topped with shredded pork and could-be-canned pineapple, and Tacos Chorizo, with the cantina's smoky sausage (both $8.75), could use the extra carbs, especially at these prices.
Quesadillas of zucchini flower ($5.75) and huitlacoche ($5.99), the fungus that attacks corn husks, also known as corn smut, are simply single flour tortillas folded over a bit of veggies and melted cheese. Equally disappointing, Pastel de Tres Leches ($3.25) may as well be retro Betty Crocker-style cake doused with sweetened condensed milk.
But the biggest noticeable change at El Trompo is the service. Charming and accommodating before, staff are now indifferent at best and next to invisible when it's time to present the $40-for-two check. Some snack!