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One Great Sandwich: The Torta

By Molly Durham in Food on Jan 26, 2012 5:30PM

Torta may literally mean "cake" in Spanish, but don't expect to get a sugary slice with frosting on top when you order one.

This Mexican sandwich is made with a firm, flat, round bread usually called a bolilo. The bolilo is oval-shaped with a crusty exterior and soft interior. It can be made with several kinda of meat, including chicken, beef and pork. It usually also contains avocado slices, beans, jalapeƱo, tomato and cheese. Served with salsa for dipping or pouring, that's a whole lot of flavors right there. With all these ingredients stacked into a torta, it somehow all stays together between the crusty yet palatable bread; this is the magic of the torta. It holds together and has a nice crunch, but doesn't break your teeth.

There are several torta options around the city of Chicago. The most well-known places would probably be Rick Bayless' Xoco and Tortas Frontera. We recommend the chipotle chicken options at both, shown above.

But don't stick to the most popular. Plenty of authentic taquerias exist here. Dona Naty's in Ukranian Village has the standard varieties but also a tongue ("lengua") torta for the adventurous. Cemitas Puebla in Humboldt Park has a carne asada sandwich served on a sesame bun with avocado, adobo chipotle peppers, and fresh Oaxacan cheese. At Bombon Cafe you can create your own torta, with options such as Pork Carnitas, Serrano Ham, Arrachera (skirt steak marinated in beer) and Grilled Pineapple. Plus, they deliver.

Other eateries with all the usual torta suspects include Mi Cafetal in Pilsen, Taqueria El Asadero in Lincoln Square, Los Comales 9 on South Cicero, and Las Asadas in Bucktown. It really seems you can get a torta in any Chicago neighborhood.

Get out of your regular sandwich routine and venture out to some of these places to eat a delicious, carefully constructed and architecturally sound sandwich.