The State Of The Torta

The torta has got to be one of the most unappreciated cheap Mexican fast foods around, the lonely and homely half-sister to that king taco that gets all the attention.  How can a mere sandwich even begin to measure up to glory that is the taco? Still, little Miss Torta has her own charms. Sometimes the Torta is exactly the one you want to do. I have a few favorite spots where the torta is the only item I want to put in my mouth. (Hmm, that sounds funny.) But I figured it was time to venture away from the known and try a few other places, see how their so-called tortas stack up. Someone needs to start the Great Torta Hunt to kick off an appreciation of our most favorite utilitarian sandwich.

I took a few notes and pics of some recent examples across our city, for what little its worth. Click ahead to see the State of the Modern Torta in Los Angeles.

The real reason I considered considering tortas other than the ones I’ve known was a recent ad in the LA Weekly for this Santito’s place on Melrose, that promised Mexican style tortas close to work. I had my doubts. The luchador icon made me think this place was a few years behind the times, cuz that icon is dead as a signifier of Mexican-ness. Yet the limited food options in the ghettoes of the wealthy makes one take unnecessary risks. Adventure in the pursuit of flavor!

They have a veggie torta, just 15¢ shy of 8 dollars. Let’s just call it an $8 torta.

I think the chips and salsa are supposed to be extra, but the friendly staff gave us some anyways. The salsas were ok, but a bit too much on the mild side. I guess they know their intended clientele.

Well this I wasn’t expecting: an ungrilled torta at the Mexican Grill Torta.  Just a plain old cut telera, like you can get from El Pavo.

Inside the ungrilled flat telera there was a wisp of beans, some “cilantro rice”, and a mix of mushrooms and bell peppers. I don’t want to diss on these well intentioned and friendly folks, but boy was this a boring torta. Mostly bread, not much filling. And at $8 I have a hard time finding reason to go back.

One of their side option is esquites. But they make theirs with canned sweet yellow corn. Not quite esquites.

And way over on the other side of town, in the thought-provoking region sometimes referred to as the Eastside, a new Torta-eria opens up. Driving by we were struck by their chosen name, and figured it wouldn’t last too long once some corporate monster got wind of it.

Ha ha! A few other items also play on the name, plus the color scheme is familiar. I smell trouble.

And then I smelled a most wonderful torta, complete with avocado, queso fresco, beans, rice, lechuga, and salsa. And did you notice that it’s grilled? Oh yeah! And they don’t even use “grill” as part of their name.

We had to ask for this “sin carne” torta but even without mushrooms and bell peppers, they came up with something way better. Since it wasn’t on the menu, they were obviously debating how much to charge. It was less than the normal $5.

I’m not going to give you their address cuz I don’t think they understand the implications of their name. But if you see it as you are driving by, stop for a visit. It’s worth your time and money.

Another “torta” I’ve had a few times is the one at Pure Luck, a vegan restaurant in East Hollywood. It’s a usually good imitation, stuffed with some seasoned jackfruit that pretends to be meat and some whole beans, on a hard “rustic bun”. The $10 price tag is also hard to ignore, even with your choice of side. I mostly go here cuz its on the way home from work. And they have good beers on tap. But the quality of the dishes here seem to be steadily dipping, I’m gonna wait awhile before I go back. Tip: don’t get the soups, they all taste the same.

Yet another decent imitation torta is the one at Veggie Grill, a chain of vegan restaurants that are surprisingly good. The filling is some fake carne asada that is quite decent, but the bun is some weak whole grain-ish type of roll that makes you want to laugh. After the giggles, you tend to hesitantly concur that the food is overall good, even though you wish you had a good reason to hate it. I couldn’t find one good enough. Drats.

I consume the bulk of my veggie tortas at eateries that don’t advertise their existence. But I’m going to keep those options to myself cuz I don’t want you fucking things up for me. Get your own supplier! 😉

PS. I’m going to keep notes on tortas going forward, so expect an update sometime in the future.

14 thoughts on “The State Of The Torta

  1. I LOVE the Tortas at Naranjo on Daly, across the street nfrom the park/99 cents store parking lot. Then again, I am a meat eater. But when you pull the torta apart, the strings of melty cheese make my heart skip a beat. The milanesa is my favorite and the tortas go for $4.75.

    I haven’t asked if they have a vegetarian option but I know that on their burritos list, they do have vegetarian burritos.

  2. Although I don’t know if they have a veggie option, no discussion of tortas can be complete without King Torta in Lincoln Park! Best in LA hands down…. deep in the Eastside.

  3. I just make my own veggie tortas. It’s hard finding a good one out there. I got my beans, my chile curtido, my vegenaise, avocado, tomato, onions, and my personally grilled telera and I’m off!

    They always come out messy but that’s what makes them DELICIOUS.

    I, every now and then, find a decent spot but I always have a bad memory of remembering which ones they were! Don’t worry Chavito, I got my own supplier.


  4. I’ve been to King Torta and their veggie option for tortas are terrible. I’m sure the meat-based ones are better but I wouldn’t know. They always look busy. I always wondered : is King Torta in El Sereno or in Lincoln Heights?

  5. Yeah, I’ve been to the King Torta as well but wasn’t impressed. Maybe I should try it again. Since it’s before Soto I think that makes it LH.

  6. Thanks for the heads up–my bro’s been trying to take me to that King o’Torta place for a few weeks now. Says its a place where we both can eat(!)—cuz he’s total carnivero. I’m forewarned.

  7. Never had the veggie torta but the tortas at La Poblanita in Wilshire Center are what keep me from snapping.

  8. I hope McTorta are reading this. McD’s sued a San Fran sushi place called McSushi back in the late 80s. McD’s won. So there’s legal precedent there. (Funny thing is, they lost in a suit against a bar called McDonald’s.) Even worse, I think McDonalds sold “tortas” for a while.

    The torta makers should just go all the way and call it “McDonald’s Scottish Torta Grill” and avoid the legal troubles. They could add some laver to the torta.

    antispam word: asco

  9. “Tacos Don Chente” has a killer lengua torta, plenty of chunky avocado, not that watery stuff, good soft bread, a bit pricey but very good!!

  10. Now don’t get me wrong, I love our home style Mexican food in the hood, but I’m a little tired of seeing the “vegetarian” option on the menu being the same torta or burrito minus the meat :/ I wish they got just a little creative with that….But not too creative like our Angeleno’s on the *other* side of town cater too… cuz then we got a 37 grain burrito with organic watercress and that ain’t gonna fly.

  11. I’m a VEGAN & I would suggest you stick with tortas on the EAST side. Last time I went to PURE LUCK I cut my mouth with a STAPLE!!!! The staple was in my TACO!! When I told them they sort of gave me that look like I had put it there. As far as Veggie Grill, it lacks A LOT of flavor. For a good vegan friendly torta check out La Morenita on Broadway in Lincoln Heights. It’s not in the Menu, just tell her you want a “VEGETARIAN” torta with no cheese or crema. It has beans, nopalitos, veggies, salsa, guacamole- they hook it up!! 🙂

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