Taquerías are probably the most common kind of eatery in Mexico City, but torterías, purveyors of tortas, the generously filled sandwiches that come on bolillo rolls or the smaller teleras, are not far behind. From stalls at subway station exits to restaurants that have been in business close to a century, torterías are a fixture in the city landscape. Here are five of our favorites, in no particular order:
1. La Texcocana
Address: Avenida Independencia 87-A, Centro Histórico
In business for more than 70 years, this eatery began as a convenience store that happened to sell tortas. Unlike at El Cuadrilátero and other tortas gigantes joints, La Texcocana tortas are petite – about four inches long – and known for their simplicity. The small teleras are baked specially for them every day. The fillings are also uncomplicated, but undeniably delicious. We love the avocado torta with fresh cheese and a slice of chipotle pepper served at room temperature, but there’s also bacalao, Norwegian cod (probably the most complex item on the menu), carnitas and fresh cheese.
Phone: +52 55 5521 7871
Hours: 10am-7pm; closed Sunday
Address: Hamburgo 281 Local 2, Colonia Juárez
Phone: +52 55 5525 1744
Hours: 10am-7pm; closed Sunday
2. Tacos Árabes la Periquita
Address: Antonio Caso 125, Colonia San Rafael
Telephone: +52 55 5546 0456 / +52 55 5703 3752
At the bare-bones but brightly plumed “Little Parrot,” which a Guerrero native opened in 1998, a rotating vertical spit stands at attention by the entrance. The juicy layers of pork roasting in the round are skillfully carved up to fill the eponymous tacos árabes, gringas (similar to tacos, but on a flour tortilla) and the wonderful plus-sized tortas. Other meats and vegetables get a turn on the grill. Our favorite torta combines the spit-roasted al pastor pork with crumbly chorizo and sandwiches it in a crusty, oblong bun that is toasted for a little extra textural contrast.
3. Tortas AS
Address: Avenida Presidente Plutarco Elías Calles 1569, Colonia Portales
Telephone: +52 55 5532 8632
Hours: 10am-9:30pm; closed Sunday
Señor Gustavo, the owner of this decades-old tortería, has a simple recipe for success: freshness. Hundreds of teleras, just out of the oven, arrive every morning before opening time, and the meats and vegetables that go into the fillings are as impeccably fresh. The menu here is more extensive than those of most torterías and includes classics such as torta de milanesa (thin flank steak that’s breaded and deep fried), pierna (pork leg) and our favorite, torta cubana, a sandwich with a little bit of everything – chorizo, hot dog, milanesa, avocado, pierna, you name it.
4. El Cuadrilátero
Address: Luis Moya 73, Centro Histórico
Telephone: +52 55 5510 2856
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8am-8pm; closed Sunday
The name refers to the wrestling ring – fitting for a place with a lucha libre theme. The eatery is decked inside and out with the glittery, colorful masks and costumes of Mexican wrestling, and to satisfy customers with wrestler-sized appetites, owner María Guadalupe Cortés offers dozens of belt-busting tortas. Most popular among these is the Gladiador, a 1.3-kilo, 40-cm-long behemoth stuffed with six kinds of meat, cheese, egg, onion, tomato, chilies and avocado on a sesame-studded loaf. There’s a junior version for mere mortals.
5. La Casa del Pavo
Address: Motolinia 40, Centro Histórico
As you might have guessed from its name, this restaurant specializes in turkey – and has done so since 1901. (There are also non-turkey items, such as Basque-style bacalao stew and adobo-marinated pork shoulder.) It’s one of the few eateries left that sell turkey tortas year-round, and Casa del Pavo’s tidy, compact version is stuffed with a generous amount of pulled meat and dressed with a bit of avocado, all on a telera bun. The place is a classic, and so are its sandwiches.
Telephone: +52 55 5518 4282
(photos by Ben Herrera and PJ Rountree)
Best thing since sliced bread