Last month, we eagerly returned to one of our summer time rituals: Friday nights at Scoops. As we scurried up Melrose, trying to make it before they sold out of ice cream, we noticed a hot dog cart and quickly shot a glance to the menu board. We stopped when we realized the board was filled up with small text, and before we knew it a menu folder was shoved in our hands. 25 tortas. All different. We looked at the cart again. El Kamazutra Tortas. He looked at us, waiting for our order.
Although we spent a good while talking about tortas, he declined to tell us his name. “Say only, 'Kamazutra Tortas,'” He told us as if he already had plans grander than the cart. He began selling tortas last November, setting up his cart on Friday and Saturday nights from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. During the day, his brother takes over and places the cart closer to the nearby LACC, Monday thru Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The pair grew up in Mexico City and spent years working in torterías or torta stands, so it is with much confidence that he claims, “Only my tortas are 100% D.F.”
The flavor of tortas from Mexico City, “es distinto,” very unique, he schools us as he brushes mayonnaise on each side of a telera roll before placing them on the griddle. “For example in Mexico, we never put lettuce in tortas.” While the edges of the bread crisp up, he preps the fillings. Flipping over the bread, assembling the torta, he then pulls out a squeeze bottle and says, “This is the most important, the salsa. No one has this, it's my own recipe.” He squirts it onto the open-faced sandwich while still on the grill. The salsa appears to be a chile spiked thinned mayonnaise and within seconds it coats the fillings in a spicy ooze.
Why 25 tortas? He seemed surprised by the question — “I have a 100!” — but admits to the limitations of the cart. We have to start somewhere, so we order the Suiza, composed of three cheeses, tomato and avocado. Although it wasn't quite the Mexican grilled cheese we had envisioned, we quickly realized exactly what he meant by destinto.
This time we utter the Spanish, “liviano“, meaning light. He smiles. For our second we challenge him with the Camelia. “Good.” He nods and constructs a large puffy omelet with browned ham and quesillo on top. Although it tastes completely different from the previous torta, it maintains the same elements of lightness. “It goes fast, eh?” he says as our eyes wander again to the menu. Maybe the Texana with milanesa and bacon or the Juanga with chorizo and split hot dogs.
By the time we leave, Scoops is closed and the beats of a nearby rave pulsate through the street. A young man rushes up. “Aye. You selling tacos?” Barely looking up while preparing a new order he scoffs, “No. Just tortas.”
El Kumazutra Tortas: Near the corner of Melrose Avenue and North Vermont Avenue. On Vermont, Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m – 2:30 p.m. and on Melrose, Friday and Saturday 7:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.