Calling a torta a “Mexican version of a sandwich” is akin to calling Mexican food “anything with salsa on it”; there is just so much to the stuff. Four kinds of bread come into play, there is a wet version that looks like a Chicago classic Italian Beef sandwich dunked in Cincinnati style Chili, and an origin story that ties into one of the greatest artists and inventors of the Western World: Leonardo DaVinci. Most importantly there are tons of amazing tortas in Los Angeles. The diversity that is capable in this sandwich medium, coupled with a friendly price tag mean impeccable choices; from the iconic taqueria King Taco, Torta specialist Gallo Giro, gourmet game changer like Cook’s Tortas and the always crowded, uber generous with the meat and moves like an In N Out line on crank, Grand Central Market stand – Tacos y Tumbras, and that just scratches the surface. But damn if I don’t love a dark horse contender, a torta joint that falls just below the radar of chowhound or LA Weekly round ups – give up a warm round of applause to La Torta Loca, the best torta joint in downtown you probably have never heard of.
For all the talk lately about Pre Colombian Mexican, I still can’t bring myself to not throw down my dime on some swine. I think owner Tony Rajas’ culinary training in Puebla may have something to do with that. The pierna, a spice rubbed roasted pork leg is a torta staple and was highly recommended by Rajas but I just could’t keep myself from doing yet another dance with the Asada and Chorizo torta. Almost like the torta version of a bacon cheeseburger, this sin ridden sandwich blends the bite of salted and spiced sausage to skirt steak, what’s the problem? Perhaps my arteries but tortas are more fun when you have one on your “X” day, and looking at this menu, there is no shortage of indulgent combinations. We should be thankful that in the interest of good sandwich composure and the health of their customers; La Torta Loca matches these bold flavors and indulgent ingredients with a measured reserve in quantity; this is no Carl’s Jr commercial, there is just enough meat there.
If there ever was a gateway drug for Mexican food for the wary Westerner, it would have be the torta. Case in point, the chorizo and sliced jalapeno on the bottom is off set by the mayonnaise slathered on top. Shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and beef are familiar territory for any gringo and I think everyone who enjoys eating at all, is down for a buttered roll. In this case the bread of choice is Telera, which at first seems softer than the French influenced Bolillo but has a chew that makes for a sturdy sandwich even when filled with fried cutlets like milanesa.
I found the salsa served with this torta to be heavy on the tomato, almost like a Mexican Marinara. Since this sandwich needs sauce about as much as a Big Mac needs another bun, I’d skip out on the stuff but my mind does wonder what a spicy salsa verde could do here.
Whether you split this sandwich or tackle it solo and cancel your dinner plans, you will move through it very quickly. Although I imagine recreating this sandwich at a future football tailgate with whole pieces of skirt steak and lengthwise slices of longaniza vs chopped steak and minced chorizo, the latter makes for a “I just ate a taqueria between two buns factor”, and that is why La Tora Loca is so good at what it does: they deliver interesting torta combinations that stay rooted in traditional Mexican cooking. I think it is amazing that Cook’s Tortas does a Po’ Boy and that Tacos Y Tumbras will happily oblige an order for a Carnitas(pork shoulder poached in lard) Torta to be studded with buche(griddled pig stomach) but it sure is nice to have a Torta place that can make everyone from the arrogant yelper to offal shy teenager, get a little loca for.
La Torta Loca
855 Santee Street
DTLA, Santee Alley adjacent so you can get your shop on