We're used to finding our Mexican food in less-than-normal places: sold out of grocery carts, cooked in fly-by-night outdoor kitchens, served out of bicycle-mounted freezers. But the lexicon of this cuisine--tamales, huaraches, sopes, paletas, raspados and more--rarely feature in the billboards that line the freeways of Los Angeles, except in erstwhile gordita ads for Taco Bell, if that even counts. So what to make of the huge letters spelling out torta on ad after ad on the 405, the 710, the 101? Not only are these Clear Channel billboards selling Mexican sandwiches, they're selling Mexican sandwiches from a convenience store, ampm, to be specific. Curious about these ads and their promises of towered tortas and secret menus, Squid Ink did some research to uncover the mystery.
After "liking" ampm's Facebook page, we gained access to the off-menu items, the worst kept "secrets" since those Thom Yorke shows last year: the Hot Chihuahua, the Tower of Torta, the Towering Inferno, the just-released Chili Conquistador. All varied combinations of too much meat stuffed into some form of bun, these so-called "Yums" are less menu items--ampm eats are self-serve, after all--than instructions for recreating what more often than not resembles something a stoned teenager might gleefully slap together to impress his bros while hunting for munchies at the convenience store at 3 AM; a more pure pot-inspired cuisine than anything sold out of Kogi truck.
Launched on July 20th, the Chili Conquistador calls for the following: burger, chili, Spicy Funyuns. To prepare, "Start by topping a burger with chili and Spicy Funyuns. Then conquer the condiment bar." See what they did there: conquer, conquistador? The condiment bar can be your own personal Tenochtitlan! Great.
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For all of their ad-buys and affirmations of the dispensary crowd's dining tendencies, ampm's new food PR efforts don't seem to have sparked anything resembling an Old Spice Guy-style viral spread, with just 356 "likes" on Facebook--one "like" equaling one person with secret menu knowhow--and a pathetic twenty-six followers on Twitter. Granted, there are five more "Yums" to be announced, but preliminary results seem to suggest that the Tower of Torta won't be the new Double-Double Animal Style--both in terms of cult status and flavor. And if you positively need to eat three tortas stacked together, a la the Tower of Torta, El Kamazutra Tortas can certainly offer you something better, with that distinto D.F. flavor.