If you’re in Mexico and it’s lunchtime, it’s time for tortas, and they’re available on almost every block. If you’re in Los Angeles and it’s lunchtime, you’ll have to look a bit harder for your tortas, but not much, as there are several great restaurants that specialize in these delicious south-of-the-border favorites. And wherever you happen to be, they’re worth seeking out, because not only are tortas quick, convenient, and affordable, they’re also delicious. Not to be confused with the sweet Italian dessert cakes of the same name, these savory Mexican sandwiches are made with chicken, pork, and carne asada, generously layered with avocado, complemented with spicy sauces like ranchero or mole, and served on an oblong roll called a boillo that’s crispy on the outside and light and chewy on the inside. You can find them in hole-in-the-wall eateries, market stalls, and food trucks, and every Angeleno has their favorite spots. Here are ours:
The moment you step inside King Torta, you smell why the place is an LA favorite. The savory aromas wafting through the air compel you to order the popular lengua torta right away. One bite of its magical mix of sliced and seasoned meat and you’ll swoon with all the others here. Bring all your favorite villagers and share the super fries – smothered in guacamole, cheese, and beans – the order of choice among the El Sereno area locals. The roof of the joint may be Spanish style, but the flavors of their finger-licking grub is quintessentially Mexican.
Mi Teresita Taco Truck
If you’re a night owl looking for a tasty fix, Mi Teresita Taco Truck is the place to stop. This kitchen on wheels shows up around 8pm nightly in East LA, and people from all over wait in line for its tasty fare. The carne asada is super juicy, grilled, and charred to perfection. The bread is so fresh you’d swear it just came out of the bakery oven. The tortas mixed with pollo and al pastor, mayo, and avocado may get all over your face, but that just adds to the fun.
Perhaps the finest of all tortas joints is Cook’s Tortas in Monterey Park. It’s a touch fancier than the other spots, with options like caramelized onions, chorizo, and mushrooms, but don’t let that keep you away. They’ve got so many tortas to choose from on its chalkboard menu it’ll make your head spin, and they’re all amazing. If you’re feeling adventurous, try La Diabla (the she-devil) It’s so hot and spicy, you’ll use your napkins less to catch its sauce, and more to wipe away tears of joy – and pain – from your eyes.
Whichever place you choose, make sure to gather all your friends and make it part of your weekly ritual. It’s an affordable way to fill up, catch up, and enjoy the day.