Somewhere in the ether, along with a million other questions that sit forlorn on the Internet, an anonymous user writes to the site AOL Answers to ask: "What happened to Fanny's Tortas in Lincoln Heights?" The question was posted two years ago, and no one ever answered. But a few days ago, an answer popped up in the back corner of a strip mall in Highland Park.
Fanny's Restaurant is a tiny operation with a big menu, full of Mexican breakfast items, burritos and various fish and shrimp dishes. But what it is best known for already, despite being open for only a week or so, is the item at the very end of the menu on the back page. The hint is on the menu's cover, though, where a photo of a tropical beach paradise sports the words: "Home of the Original Fanny's Tortas From Lincoln Heights."
The original Fanny's opened in 1981 across from Abraham Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights. It moved from that location to North Main Street, but closed a few years ago. Now the family-run restaurant is back but in a new neighborhood: a friendly, three-table eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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Fanny's serves two kinds of tortas — a milanesa version and Fanny's Special Torta. When we ordered one of each, the woman counseled us, "The Fanny's Special is very good. It's better." She was right. The milanesa, topped with avocado and pickled jalapeño, was good enough, but the meat was a little tough and tasteless.
Fanny's Special, on the other hand, was fantastic, made mainly of carne asada with gobs of soft avocado and a flurry of chopped onion and cilantro. The bread they use is lightly toasted and pillowy soft, and the combination of charred meat, creamy avocado, crunchy onion and supple bread makes for quite a sandwich. It's no wonder people are still mooning about these tortas years later, wondering where they went.