Essential T: Monster Tortas at Tortas Gigantes El Chilango

Good luck wrapping your mouth (let alone your hands) around this gargantuan grinder
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The very best Mexican foods start with the letter T—tacos, tortas, tlayudas. Here we showcase the tastiest “T” bites from the streets of L.A. 

The standard Mexico City street-both torta is a pretty hefty grinder, while tortas de guisado, like the ones served at Mexico City’s La Texcocana, are more manageable sandwiches, stacked with a slim spread of stewed cod or pate. Then you have the Man vs. Food variety, like the gladiator torta at Mexico City’s famed El Quadrilatero, whose recipe was born from the voracious appetite of a legendary luchador. That impressive sandwich weighs in at 1.3 kilos, and if you can finish it in 15 minutes you get your name on the wall. There have been many valiant attempts, but few have managed the feat.

The young man behind the comal at Tortas Gigantes El Chilango in Florence-Firestone is more architect than cook (he began making tortas in Mexico City when he was 9 years old). Just like Super Tortas DF, Tortas Gigantes has the classic styles: Rusa (milanesa, bacon, and string cheese), Italiana (three cheeses), and the fully loaded Cubana. But this Mexico City-style sandwich cart also has official tortas named after alluring Mexican actresses and singers like the Thalia (chorizo, ham, and string cheese) or the tribute to the women of barrio Tepito, a flea market in Mexico City, called the Tepiteña (hot dog, milanesa, and string cheese).

The husky, foot-long roll is really put to the test with Tortas Gigantes’ tempting cubana, which stars about a dozen ingredients: a fistful of wieners, a fried egg, avocado, ham, pineapple, cheese and an assortment of other lunch meats including head cheese. One of these tortas should get you through the entire day, but it’s even better to bring some friends and share while the mammoth sammie is fresh.

redarrow Tortas Gigantes El Chilango, Slauson at Holmes, Florence-Firestone, 323-483-2047