I actually had a dream about this sandwich this weekend. I also had a dream that one of the twins I dated in middle school is now a politician, but that's not really relevant to this story.
In Chicago last weekend for the Pitchfork Music Festival, my friend Faith and I found ourselves staying at a hotel just down the street from Xoco, chef Rick Bayless's casual, sandwich-centric extension of his Frontera restaurant.
I've wanted to try the tortas there for three years now, so I was thrilled. Before embarking on our festival diet of vodka and Popchips, we started our Saturday at Xoco with one torta each.
I got the baja chicken torta (pictured), which was served on a baguette-type thing, but it was hollowed out and very easy to eat, especially with cooperation from the cabbage. The garlic chicken would make other torta meats ashmed, and the spreads of black beans and chipotle mayo accented without overwhelming the subtle wisps of woodburning oven flavor.
Faith got a chicken torta from the "griddled" menu called the milanesa: crispy chicken, black beans, jack cheese, pickled jalapenos, cabbage, tomatillo-avocado salsa, and cilantro crema. Sadly, I did not try hers, because I thought I was getting a cold, and I would have felt really bad had I gotten Faith sick only because I insisted on taking a bit of her sandwich.
If it's any indication, she and I both ate only a half of our sandwich, and all day, we talked about how excited we were to go back to our hotel and eat the other half. Also, I don't know why pine nuts on guacamole aren't more prevalent. Nice work, Xoco.
Last but hardly least in my tale of three tortas comes San Francisco's very own That's It market, an unassuming corner store on Mission and 23rd that's been on my sand wish list ever since Anthony Bourdain downed the gargantuan cubano torta on No Reservations
Once a hidden gem, That's It is now infamous for its cubano, a massive serving of late-night drunken sustenance that includes ham, chorizo, pork, bacon, and ham. Wow. Massive amounts of meat aren't really my thing, so I opted for the chicken torta (pictured below) while Andrew ordered the ham (above), both of which were plenty massive — and massively delicious. Get the full lowdown.
Since I'm mildly obsessed with spicy tortas, I couldn't let my first trip to Mexico end without trying a local sandwich. Though Zihuatanejo is more known for pozole and tacos al pastor, we heard good things about hole-in-the-wall Tortas Ziranda and hit it up for our last meal.
Markedly different from Nopalito, obviously, but far more authentic, Ziranda serves reasonably sized tortas on toasty grilled rolls. I ordered ham and cheese (pictured below), while Andrew got the Ziranda specialty of shredded pork and jam with two kinds of cheese (above)
Keep reading for more thoughts and pictures.
I've been on a serious torta kick lately, devouring the Mexican sandwiches everywhere from my neighborhood to the Mission to Mexico itself. To show my deep appreciation for this delicioso dish, allow me to tell this tale of three tortas, starting at San Francisco's bourgie yet authentic Mexican eatery Nopalito.
Like a Mexican hoagie or a burrito on bread, tortas take South of the Border flavors and sandwich them in a soft, toasted roll, such as a telera or bolillo. Nopalito stays pretty true to tradition with its housemade bun, which contains adobo-seasoned shredded pork, refried beans, jack cheese, and avocado.
Find out what I thought.
The Cubano sandwich and the Mexican torta have more than a few things in common: both hail from Spanish-speaking cultures, both share characteristics with toasty subs, and both sandwiches make perfect after-midnight sustenance.
The Cubano actually earned the nickname medianoche, or midnight, for its role as a post-dancing snack. But as I recently proved after tearing up the dance floor at a wedding in Chicago, followed by a little honky tonk at Carol's Pub until 3 a.m., the torta makes an equally suitable meal after medianoche.
I can't remember what this place was called — does it really matter? — but I do know that I scarfed down a chicken torta there, and it hit the spot.
Usually I plan my 'wich trips in advance, camera in hand. But the other day, I found myself with some extra time on my City CarShare reservation, so I hightailed it to La Torta Gorda for a long-awaited taste of some of San Francisco's best tortas. Did they live up to my high expectations? So much so that even the crappy iPhone photos are making me hungry.
I still have yet to try the best tortas in town, at either Tortas Los Picudos or La Torta Gorda, depending on who you ask. I hope to check at least one of them off my sand wish list soon, but until then, I tend to my torta cravings elsewhere, including my new neighborhood taqueria, El Rancho Grande.
Our neighborhood needed a good Mexican place, and while El Rancho Grande isn't particularly noteworthy, it's also not bad — and it's right there. Plus, they have tortas! I ordered the barbecued chicken torta to go, which was a little too barbecuey for my taste, but I tend to prefer less sauce.
Avocado, refried beans, and creamy cheese joined the chicken on a fluffy, toasted roll. Unlike other tortas I've tried, this sandwich wasn't enormous but a perfectly satisfying size.
Seeing Anna and Jonas's honeymoon photos makes me want to fast-forward our wedding to the vacation part. They rented a lovely house in Sayulita, near Puerto Vallarta, where it was hot. One day, after a particularly exhausting and sweaty walk, they stumbled upon this torta spot.
While they were waiting for their sandwiches, the proprietor of the shop sat them at a table and chairs in an adjacent garage with standup fans positioned to blow right on them. By the time the tortas were ready, the happy couple were nice and cool. I'm sure the cold beer didn't hurt either.
Got your own sandwich to share? Email your photos to email@example.com, along with a description of what's on your sandwich.
After an extended Friday night happy hour and the burlesque show at El Rio
, I was ravenous. Thankfully, El Farolito
was there, shining like a beacon in the night. Though I usually go for the burritos, this time I ordered a torta
The fluorescent lights and grainy cell-phone photos might make this look disgusting, but do not be fooled: it was delicious. Really, really delicious. Grilled chicken with an obscene amount of melted cheese, served on pillowy soft bread toasted to a slight crisp on top. Combined with the spicy but not too spicy peppers, it was a fiesta in my mouth.
Check out some more disgusting but delicious photos.