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QUESTION: Where can I find the best tortas? I thought
this would be a basic question answered many times over but after extensive
Internet research, I have yet to find an answer. In particular, I’m looking
for a saucy pork-based torta.


—Brenda Hsueh

ANSWER: We may not be Torta Town quite yet, but it may
already be easier to find a great torta (or Mexican sandwich) in Los Angeles
than it is to find a truly fine burrito. The signature tortas at the
El Gallo Giro chain are pretty wonderful, slap-ups of beans, avocado, jalapeño
chiles, rubbery white cheese and carnitas, sliced pork or fried beef smushed
together on a soft, sweet roll — those few bites in the middle of the sandwich
where all the ingredients come together are sublime. I like the tortas made
with the chipotle-tinged shredded beef called tinga, which taste something
like a sophisticated Mexican Sloppy Joe.

Stands selling tortas ahogadas, Guadalajara-style dipped sandwiches,
and cemitas, Puebla-style sandwiches on seeded buns, are popping up all
over East L.A. On the Westside, the two branches of Taqueria Sanchez prepare
formidable tortas, especially the ones made with pork loin. But the sentimental
favorite is still probably the venerable Super Tortas, a paradise of grilled
meat and purple Formica tucked into a tiny strip center near MacArthur Park,
whose tortas are built on feather-light French rolls crisped at the edges, barely
substantial enough to stand up under the thick lashings of mayonnaise and guacamole.
Marred neither by the earthy smear of beans common to most great tortas, nor
with an amount of chile that might bother an Iowan grandmother, Super Tortas
are graciously overstuffed with grilled slices of rib-eye steak, garlicky grilled
pork, or a rather eggy version of machaca, the northern Mexican dish
of dried beef sautéed with onion. When it comes to tortas, as with so many other
things, too much can be barely enough. 360 S. Alvarado St., (213) 413-7953;
also at 1253 Vine St., (323) 469-8912.


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