Just like the taco, which takes many different forms, the torta covers a range of Mexican sandwich styles. As with all sandwiches, breads and fillings vary, but tortas adhere to uniquely Mexican traditions. Some of L.A.’s best versions are based on tortas from states like Jalisco, Oaxaca, and Puebla, plus Mexico City (aka Distrito Federal). Discover 10 of the best, most satisfying tortas in Los Angeles, listed in alphabetical order.
Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian
Adolfo Huerta’s Puebla-style sandwich shop is a Van Nuys hole-in-the-wall that holds only three tables, which are often occupied. However, you’re here for cemitas poblanas and not comfort. The best use of their sturdy, sesame roll may be cecina adobada, juicy spice-soaked beef spiked with chipotle salsa and topped with onions, fresh-shucked avocado, and cool slabs of milky panela cheese (or string cheese). In season, you can add papalo, a punchy wild herb known as “summer cilantro.” Depending on your preference, Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian also highlights queso de puerco (head cheese), barbacoa (roasted lamb) or pata envinagrada (vinegar-cured beef feet). Decisions, decisions.
Chef Alex Carrasco's sanguche (torta) is "kinda like a panini and a grilled cheese with a torta style. It's simple but out of this world."
This Monterey Park sandwich shop from Elvira Zamora, Antonio Zamora and daughter Elyan Zamora features fashionable grey and white tile floors and a blackboard menu that rotates through a 500-sandwich repertoire. The name honors Captain Cook, who founded the Sandwich Isles using funding from the Earl of Sandwich and supposedly created the sandwich. House-made ciabatta bread, which former Bouchon baker Patrick Aguirre imbued with tang from a sourdough starter, provides the shop’s backbone. Cochinita (#301) stars slow-cooked pork stained red with achiote paste that’s dressed with black beans, escabeche-onions, and cilantro. Bacalao (#25) is also a big winner, featuring flaky Nova Scotia salt cod that’s braised with potatoes, red onions, garlic, peppers, and green Spanish olives. If you crave heat, consider La Diabla (#666) with grilled chicken, jalapenos, chile de arbol, habanero guacamole, grilled cheese, black beans, and mayo.
La Chiva Loca
When eating Guadalajara-style tortas ahogadas ("drowned sandwiches"), be prepared to make a mess. La Chiva Loca’s take on the popular sandwich comes in a plastic bag-lined basket, to prevent saucy red splatter. Choose from either carnitas; slow-cooked, shredded pork leg; or carne asada. They drown each sandwich in spicy chile de arbol broth, soaking the roll, which comes piled with thin-shaved red onions and served with a spoon to sop up debris. Julio Gonzalez has run branches of La Chiva Loca in Downey and nearby South Gate for years. His Downey flagship features memorabilia from Club Deportivo Guadalajara, a soccer club that’s affectionately known as Chivas. The word translates from Spanish as goats, which is a key protein on La Chiva Loca’s menu.
Super Tortas Estilo D.F.
Justino Gress has parked a torta trailer on the same corner south of downtown since 2008. He mans the plancha in an exhibition kitchen and his nephew works the window. They play soccer on TV for customers who snag five prized white plastic chairs and others waiting in line. Their menu boasts more than a dozen different tortas, including location-inspired choices like Hawaiiana, Argentina, and Hollandeza. Still, most people come for their Torta Cubana. This beast of a sandwich touts 3 ingredients for $6, and if you’re smart, 10 ingredients for $8. Go all-in and receive a buttered telera stacked with ham, omelet, pork leg, head cheese, quesillo, Milanesa, chorizo, tomato, two types of cheeses (white and yellow), hot dog, avocado, and jalapeno. Somehow, excess achieves balance.
Tapatia Mexican Food
Tapatia highlights a strip of Mexican food businesses in Mar Vista. Francisco Belmonte and Angela Barajas also run three sandwich shops back home in Guadalajara, and the sandwiches true to their heritage are worth seeking. Lonche de pierna stars shredded pork leg marinated in guajillo chile. Juicy meat’s piled on a crusty birote salado with sliced tomato, shaved red onion and tangy crema of mayonnaise, sour cream, and mustard. Dress with pickled jalapeños or spicy salsa de chile de arbol. They also have tortas ahogadas featuring carnitas fried in a tradition cazo, not an oven, a popular shortcut.
In Tlayuda L.A.’s mural of Hollywood, the Mountain Goats, Dengue Fever, Billy Idol and Paul McCartney are making in-store appearances at Amoeba Music. That’s a (fever) dream line-up, but still not as tantalizing as the food from Laura Guerrero and husband Alejandro Tinoco. The couple specializes in oversized Oaxacan tostadas known as tlayudas, which are excellent, but don’t sleep on their sandwiches. Torta Oaxaqueña is their signature sandwich, starring a telera roll a piled with thin-sliced beef, spicy crumbled chorizo, quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), avocado, mayonnaise and earthy bean puree. Request mild, Serrano, or habanero salsas, all house-made. I’d recommend their airy, naturally “creamy” salsa crafted with Serrano chilies, tomatillo, garlic, onion and salt.
Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara
Guadalajara-born Adrian Estrada and wife Gloria started Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara with a cart in 2001, graduated to a truck and settled on and small storefront. Daughter Cindy worked in design and helped her parents find their current home in 2010. The family’s space in St. George Plaza features orange walls, decorative papel picado strung along the ceiling, and big Guadalajara photos. Torta ahogada is their most popular sandwich, prepared with a choice of carnitas, buche (stomach), or a mix, served with beans and drowned in spicy (or mild) “secret recipe salsa” on a sourdough-like birote salado. Their more unique torta ahogada de camaron is a spice-boiled shrimp sandwich on chewy birote salado slathered in in secret recipe tomato, chipotle and cream based salsa that resembles a crime scene. Pickled red onions help to balance the flavor.