Essential T: Torta Ahogada de Camaron at Los Tripones

The so-called drowned sandwich, a Guadalajaran classic, is lost and quickly found

When I passed by Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood the other day, I was startled to see one of my cheap-eats picks, Raspados NoHo, already replaced by a new restaurant. The kitschy art on the newly painted exterior featured three pot-bellied caballeros, or los tripones, and loomed over a tempting ad in the window for tortas ahogadas de camaron, a Guadalajaran “drowned” sandwich filled with shrimp. Upon further investigation, I was relieved to learn Tortas Ahogadas Los Tripones is run by another member of the Raspados NoHo family—their original location was Tortas Ahogadas Beto, which opened in 1997.

Now my favorite spot for a torta ahogada is at Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara in Huntington Park, followed by Tortas Ahogadas Ameca, which is a fantastic East L.A fonda (diner) in which to enjoy all kinds of antojitos (little whims). But in the Valley, Tortas Ahogadas Los Tripones serves a solid version of the more-rare shrimp torta ahogada in a no-frills setting.

The rules of engagement are: Choose your level of heat—hot, medium, or mild—from the fiery Yahualica varietal of chile de arbol. Non-Latinos may have to insist on making it hot, but do persist, because if your forehead isn’t sweaty and your mouth and fingers aren’t stinging, then you aren’t experiencing the pain and pleasure of one of Mexico’s most famous tortas

Most important is the birote, or pan salado (hard roll) as it’s also known, which maintains its durability even after being drowned in chile sauce. A layer of boiled shrimp, doused with the same salsa that’s been blended with shrimp stock, is stuffed between the bread roll for pure deliciousness at one of the few places doing this version of Guadalajara’s greatest hit. I’m glad it’s still around. Tortas Ahogadas Los Tripones, 6102 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, (818) 310-5415