It is not hubris to say you have the best tortas (Mexican sandwich) in town when you have been serving them for more than 80 years. Take Tortas La Texcocana, which has been serving the delicious sandwiches in Mexico City since the early 1930s – their longevity suggests an unsurpassable skill for sandwich-making.
The business was founded by León Sánchez, a Texcoco native, in downtown Mexico City. He started selling sardine tortas to newspaper workers on the street. In 1936, he established a small shop that sold various items, his famous tortas among them. Tortas La Texcocana is in the same venue where Sánchez set up his shop many decades ago. Their tortas – the only thing on the menu now – still draw a large crowd of office and blue-collar workers.
As you walk into the small deli, which is no bigger than 10 square meters, the first thing you see to your right is a long, narrow glass display case atop a wooden counter that runs almost the length of the wall. Behind the glass, teleras (buns) and pickled peppers call out to be assembled by the tortero, José Balseca, who always looks eager to oblige. The left-hand wall is covered in memorabilia: pictures of the owners with famous customers throughout the years, awards and newspaper clips (including one from The New York Times).
“This is a family tradition and I hope they keep it alive for a long time.”
In the back corner stands an archaic cash register that spits out little pieces of paper with printed numbers, receipts that could easily belong in a museum. Sometimes we find Isabel Gómez de Sánchez, the founder’s daughter-in-law, behind the till; other times it’s Olga Sánchez, the founder’s daughter. They both take your order with a smile and will happily narrate the family history to anybody who asks. After paying, customers hand the pieces of paper to Balseca – having prepared these iconic sandwiches for decades, the man knows his stuff and is as efficient as they come.
La Texcocana’s tortas are unlike any other in Mexico City. In a city where tortas have grown to gargantuan sizes over the year, the La Texcocana version has remained the same managable size since 1936. The place is such an outlier now that the teleras used by La Texcocana have to be made especially for them. What they put inside these small buns is equally unique. They still serve the famous sardine and fresh cheese tortas León started selling in the 1930s. But the fillings now include bacalao (cod), carnitas (pork) and our favorite, avocado.
The avocado torta is no more than a telera cut in half lengthwise and stuffed with mashed avocado, fresh cheese and chipotle peppers. However, the freshness of the ingredients elevates this simple sandwich into a delicacy. If we’re in the mood for something meaty, we order the carnitas torta. Although served cold, the meat is tender and not at all greasy. It is served with pickled jalapeño peppers, a recipe perfected by Doña Candita, León’s wife.
“We are a small family business,” León Sánchez Jr. said. “But as long as there are bakers willing to make small teleras for us, we will continue to serve our customers.” The family business has expanded, however. They now have a second venue in Zona Rosa, about a mile west of the original shop. “My grandchildren are now in charge of that tortería,” Olga Sánchez told us when we asked about the future of the business. “This is a family tradition and I hope they keep it alive for a long time.”
After eating a couple of the small but decadent tortas, we can’t help but agree with Olga – this is one tradition that we hope never dies.