Essential T: Tortas Chilangas at Tortas Gigantes El Monje Loco

L.A. steps up its torta game one stand at a time, and Mid-City is the latest area to get a taste

For great tortas in Los Angeles, it’s often necessary to get on the freeway—Westsiders can get decent Oaxacan tortas at restaurants in West L.A., but the best Mexican sandwiches require a bit of a mission. There are excellent Jaliscan tortas ahogadas in East L.A. and Huntington Park; for Pueblan cemitas poblanas, a trip to Boyle Heights is in order; and for Mexican City-style tortas, there’s the pair of sandwich pros, Super Tortas D.F. and El Chilango, in South L.A. Yes, I do think it’s a shame if you’ve never been to places like these, but now there’s no excuse: The Mexico City-style torta, tortas chilangas, has arrived in Mid-City.

Tucked into the Shell station parking lot at Pico and Western is a hot dog cart, Tortas Gigantes El Monje Loco (or the crazy monk), that is constructing some of the best Mexican sandwiches in Los Angeles, and within reach of those of you in need of great Mexican food without the commute. They serve 25 different tortas either gigante (giant), the size of a 12-ounce boxing glove, or in a regular-sized torta roll, specially sourced for El Monje Loco.

Order the tepiteña (milanesa, hot dog, and Oaxacan cheese), named after the street-savvy women of Mexico City’s Tepito neighborhood, the three-cheese Italiana, or the poblana, a delicious layering of an omelette, head cheese, and white cheese dressed with refried beans, mayo, vegetables, and pickled jalapeños in a crusty roll. Of course, there are the tribute sandwiches, like the Trevi, named after Gloria Trevi, and the Tetanic, in honor of blonde Argentine bombshell Roxana Martinez, and the show-stopping, loaded torta cubana. El Monje is a top Mexican sandwich spot in Los Angeles, and conveniently located, making this your best bet north of the 10.

redarrow Tortas Gigantes El Monje Loco, 3130 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-407-2953