Since he was a child, Saul Obregon knew he would get the chance to fulfill his dreams and pay tribute to his roots. His journey was anything but a straight line from start to finish, but his journey in between helped him bring community and family from his birthplace to a new home: Houston, Texas.
One of eight children, Saul was born in 1971 in Monterrey, N.L. Mexico. Growing up, family was everything. Unity and togetherness was something the Obregon family practiced and preached. That was the way in Monterrey. Community was everything.
The town was more than just a town, it was all one big family. One thing was always a given: Whether the day was spent shopping, eating, or just spending time with one another, it always began in La Gran Plaza, a.k.a. La Macro.
While times were good, they could always be better. Opportunity knocked in a neighboring country. At the young age of eight years old, Saul and his family moved to the United States.
Saul’s father knew this move wouldn’t be easy, as it meant leaving behind lifelong friends and the only way they ever knew. But it would enable his children to study English, go to college, and lead successful lives as adults. This laid the foundation for what Saul would go on to accomplish.
After graduating from Reagan Senior High School in 1990, Saul became a welder and a metal sculptor, then went on to earn a degree in design and engineering in 1997. This would commence a mechanical designer/engineering career in the oil and gas industry that would go on for over 15 years.
During his career, he flirted with several ideas of opening a place where he can bring people together. One evening, while eating at a taco stand, it hit him: this was exactly the kind of place he had in mind.
He and his friends would meet up, just like this, before going out in town, just as they would convene in La Gran Plaza in Monterrey. It was then he decided he would own and operate a “Macro” of his own one day.
Saul’s next move was risky but it paid off. He decided to leave his lucrative career and pursue his dreams.
* * *
Shortly thereafter, Saul started Taqueria La Macro in a shopping center off of North Main St. in the center of a shopping center. He had some good recipes and it wasn't long before they were noticed.
After a while, the restaurant attracted several other businesses to the area. It almost acted as a magnet. It was the centerpiece of a fast developing area.
La Macro already grew a following, much like the Macro Plaza in Monterrey, but it needed something that captured all the flavors and tastes of the motherland. He needed a tremendous recipe for al pastor.
Spotting an authentic al pastor was a thing of beauty. The unmistakably delicious pork meat, marinated in dried chiles and spices, spun slowly on a spit, or trompo (Spanish for "spinning top"), under a chunk of the juiciest pineapple you could find, thinly sliced and placed into a bed of hot corn tortillas, under a pile of the freshest diced onions and chopped cilantro. But who would make this trompo?
Pascual was an older man, somewhere in his 60s. He had just moved to Houston from Mexico City and he needed a job.
He applied to work at several restaurants all around but couldn't land any work because of his older age. Saul offered an ear when no one else would and heard what Pascual had to say.
Pascual had nearly 50 years of experience. And he had been making trompo from day one. Not only that, but he did this in one of the most popular restaurants... in Mexico City!
Saul didn't need to hear much else. He hired his new "trompero" on the spot.
* * *
Pascual began looking for work at the young age of 15 years old. He knew he was too young to work, but he needed the money. He did what any other desperate teenager would do. He lied.
After he successfully convinced his soon-to-be employer that he was definitely of legal working age, Pascual was hired by one of the most popular restaurants in Mexico City as a trompero.
His job would be simple, but by no means a minor task: he was to prepare trompo all day, every day, to feed the large crowds that came in. It didn't take long for the expertise to sink in.
Whether it was muscle memory, repetition, or the theory that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary to become an expert at anything, one thing was clear: Pascual became an expert.
He went on to work in this role for almost 50 years. It was until he and his family decided to move to Houston that he took a break from making the best trompo in Mexico City.
Eager to find work in this new city he called home, attempt after attempt after attempt to find work was met with the same answer: "you're too old."
Pascual had just about given up hope. That is, until he met Saul that day at La Macro.
* * *
Pascual's Trompo was phenomenal but it was inconsistent. Saul wanted to know why and decided to learn Pascual's technique.
In his observance, he noticed Pascual wasn't using a recipe or reading off ingredients or measuring anything out. He was doing everything simply off of "feel". Muscle memory, once again.
Saul put two and two together and realized Pascual could not read or write. Because he couldn't read or write, no formal recipe was ever developed. This directly explained the inconsistency.
Saul worked tirelessly with Pascual to standardize and perfect the recipe. They measured every pinch and teaspoon and tablespoon and cup and ounce of every ingredient and wrote it all down.
Finally, the fruits of their labor: the recipe to the best trompo a man could dream of.
* * *
While the product was flourishing, unmatched in quality, authenticity, and taste, the store's location was suffering a different fate.
The area was still very new and early in the development stage, so business was slow. As happy customers continued to return for the best trompo in town, new customers weren't finding the store. Without new patrons and stagnant profits, Saul had to close shop.
La Macro didn't die there, though. There was still a need to fill, a void in the city. And there was still a damn good al pastor to share with inner loop Houstonians.
Saul decided he'd spread the word by opening a food truck, by making "street food" mobile.
Posted outside of popular nightlife areas, La Macro food truck soon found success and a loyal, satisfied customer base.
Over the years, the food truck has won many awards and accolades and grown in the ranks of local favorites. These days you can find it parked outside the Raven Tower Wednesday-Saturday nights.
* * *
Every city has a Macro Plaza or meeting point for all to gather.
LaMacro in Houston has become that place, where all can come together, catch up on things, have quality food, and get to taste several authentic dishes that can only be found in Monterrey.
It is safe to say that Obregon’s goal has been met. As he dreamed, he's paid tribute to his birth city and now, Houston locals can say as they do in Monterrey, Mexico: “Nos vemos en LaMacro.”