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Downhome eats from Monterrey, Mexico

Tom Hanchett

Pacino Mancillas (tie, center) with Jesus Turuda, Aida Garcia, Alberto Turuda, David Turuda
Pacino Mancillas (tie, center) with Jesus Turuda, Aida Garcia, Alberto Turuda, David Turuda

Pacino Mancillas connects cultures for a living, co-leader of Charlotte’s AC&M multicultural marketing agency. But when he wants to taste the culture he grew up in, he stops in at Tacos El Regio for a meal that takes him back home to Monterrey, Mexico.

Nestled at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains near the U.S. border, Monterrey has food traditions noticeably different from other parts of Mexico explains Mancillas.

Take tacos, for instance. Pork tacos are a signature, the meat cooked on a revolving vertical spit called a trompo. “It’s shaped like a child’s spinning top, a trompo in Spanish,” Mancillas reminisces. “What’s called Al Pastor elsewhere in Mexico we call Trompo.”

A mild adobo chili marinade tints the pork bright red. Succulent morsels are arranged with bits of pineapple plus grilled onions on tiny corn tortillas. Or you can order a “gringa” variation on a tortilla made with wheat flour, much larger. The different sizes are essential, says Mancillas, to produce the proper Monterrey “taste ratios” of tortilla to filling.

Monterrey-born brothers Alberto and David Turuda, ages 28 and 34, run El Regio, Their mother Aida Garcia helps out at the cash register along with father Jesus Turuda, who hand-makes the restaurant’s chorizo sausage.

El Regio is only open Thursday through Sunday. “On Tuesday we are out buying ingredients, then Wednesday we prep everything,” says Alberto.

Beef barbacoa is slow-cooked overnight for spicy Tacos Tlaquepaque (say t’LOCKy-pocky). Tacos Piratas features mild steak and cheese filling with avocado slices decorating the folded flour tortilla.

It’s downhome food, nothing fancy. Imagine a Carolina traveler finding a country ham biscuit far from the South.

Says Mancillas, “As immigrants we are always seeking the perfect tortilla. One of the strongest connections we have to our memories of home is to flavor.” He pauses for a moment. ”It’s not so much finding the tortilla that is important, but the people we meet along the way.”

Alberto Turuda slices pork from the trompo spit.
Alberto Turuda slices pork from the trompo spit.

Tacos El Regio
Thursday – Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.

1829 E. W.T. Harris Boulevard (just off Albemarle Road, behind a Dollar General)
Charlotte, NC 28227
(704) 222 – 9078

Trompo tacos 2

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