It’s impossible to stay clean while eating a torta ahogada. Smothered in a ladleful of zesty red sauce, the pork-filled sandwich—a beloved specialty of the Mexican city of Guadalajara—is essentially the French dip’s evil twin: a meaty, messy, spicy delight that will have you grabbing for napkins by the fistful. At Tapatia Mexican Food, a cramped, strip mall sandwich shop near Mar Vista, co-owners and Guadalajara expats Francisco Belmonte and Angela Barajas flawlessly capture the flavors of their hometown hoagie, using crusty fresh-baked rolls called birote salado and juicy carnitas fried in wide metal vats known as cazos.
But the kicker, of course, is the tomato-rich, oregano-infused, deep red sauce poured over the top (ahogada means “drowned” in Spanish), which soaks through just enough to soften the dense bread without causing it to disinte-grate. A heap of pickled red onion comes on the side, along with a squeeze bottle of piquant chile de arbol salsa to add a punch of heat, but the accessory you really need is a foam cup filled with ice-cold, house-made tejuino. A mixture of fermented corn, lime, and brown sugar, the tangy frothed beverage—another traditional Guadalajaran treat—handily tames the richness of this finger-staining delicacy.
Tapatia Mexican Food, 4506 Inglewood Blvd., Culver City, 424-289-0044
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