Food + Drinks

The Torta

Photograph by Lucas Zarebinski

With the panino's glory days gone and the bánh mì's 15 minutes about up, there's a new best sandwich contender: the torta. The traditional Mexican formula includes a crusty roll filled with a flavor-packed meat, pickled jalapeños, avocado slices, and beans that make the sandwich as sloppy as it is satisfying. And because chefs worship this masterpiece, they are homing in on the humble street food, even opening shops devoted to it. Whether the napkins are paper or cloth, know that a supreme torta will require plenty of them. JJ Goode


1. NEW YORK CITY: Los Dados
Even simple grilled chicken can be transformed into torta heaven. At this Mexican home-cooking joint, Mario Vivar layers the juicy breast meat with house-pickled serrano chilies and red onions, melted Oaxaca cheese, and fiery salsa. [73 Gansevoort St., 646-810-7290;]

You won't find many pork-belly tortas in Mexico—unless news of Tommy Habetz's delicious invention travels. At his tiny sandwich shop, he cures the rich cut in molasses and chili, slow-roasts it, and slips it inside locally baked ciabatta. [621 SE Morrison St., 503-477-9515;]

Dishwasher turned head chef Dionicio Jimenez serves elegant Pueblan food all day but switches to Mexican snacks after 10 P.M.—including a simple but exceptional torta filled with charred skirt steak, garlicky black beans, and smoky chipotle mayo. [408 S. 2nd St., 215-238-7280;]

4. LOS ANGELES: Cookâ¿¿s Tortas
Sure, torta fillings are key, but Ricardo Diaz's spot proves the importance of bread. His ciabatta-like version is baked in the restaurant's stone oven, brushed with guajillo chili sauce, then cooked in chorizo fat before it's stuffed. [1944 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, 323- 278-3536;]

5. CHICAGO: Xoco
Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo's master of haute moles, offers 14 different tortas at his new shop (opening in July). The star composition features suckling pig, pickled onions, and habanero salsa on a bolillo (a traditional roll) made to his specifications by a local bakery. [449 N. Clark St.;]

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