Long before the streets of Los Angeles were teeming with chilango (people from Mexico City) food vendors Jimmy and Andrew Shaw were already giving Angelenos a taste of the Distrito Federal at the original Farmer’s Market, Loteria Grill, which opened back in 2002.
The Shaws grew up in Mexico City—Andrew still lives there—and they originally dreamt of a torteria, or sandwich shop, when they were developing Loteria Grill. “We wanted a taqueria that you could take a date to, like in Mexico, but we also wanted to do tortas," says Jimmy Shaw.
“The problem I have with tortas in L.A. is the bread—it’s too soft on the outside and lacks texture. It’s also bigger than what we are used to in Mexico," Shaw continued. The bread at the Shaw brothers' new Torta Co., opening on 7th and Figueroa, right next to their 5th Loteria Grill is baked in house. It has a nice crunch on the outside, and is pillowy soft inside. It’s also the appropriate familiar rectangular shape with rounded edges that’s toasted on a flat top just like in Mexico’s capitol.
“We are doing typical tortas that you’d find in Mexico City like ham and cheese, and turkey. They will appeal to Mexicans and non-Mexican palates as well," said J. Shaw, “Then we’ll do other more Mexican-style tortas like chicken milanesa, or carne deshebrada (stewed, shredded beef).”
For the vegetarians there’s a wild mushroom tinga (spicy sauce) that was the surprise taste of a recent evening’s torta sampling. Its smoky, savory charms were balanced by the requisite thin spread of refried beans.
Another non-traditional sandwich is the Veracruz-style red snapper torta with a tomato, onion, and pepper sauce sharpened by capers and green olives.
All tortas come with house-made pickled jalapenos and carrots.
The bread is really key here—up until now, we’ve not had any noteworthy tortas from Mexico in Los Angeles due to poor bread rolls. Once again, the Shaw brothers are bringing us freshness, craftsmanship, and quality worthy of their home town with the Torta Co.
The Torta Co. and the adjacent new Loteria Grill will open to the public this December.
Torta Co., 732 S. Figueroa St., Downtown.