Let them eat tortas! – Albuquerque Journal

La Patrona, one of Don Tortas’ classic tortas, is topped with ham, breaded steak and pork leg. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

All greet the torta.

Bulkier than a taco, more balanced than a burrito, the torta is a multi-course meal bound with melted cheese and sandwiched between halves of soft telera rolls baked golden brown and marked with a few grooves on top .

The origins of the torta are somewhat unclear. One theory traces it back to Mexico City in the 1860s, when Mexicans adapted the baguette from their French occupiers, much like the Vietnamese created the bánh mì sandwich during the French colonial period. Another pins its beginnings to the Spanish conquistadors who brought wheat flour to Mexico in the 16th century.

Regardless of origin, the heavy sandwiches have become a favorite in Mexico and, increasingly, the United States.

You can get tortas in Albuquerque, sure, but rarely have we seen a place as dedicated to fitness as Don Tortas, the new restaurant on Central between the Fairgrounds and Nob Hill. Don Tortas offers no less than 16 tortas of varying complexity and volume, ranging from simple egg and cheese breakfast versions to elaborate builds combining steak, pork and hot peppers.

Don Tortas occupies a freestanding building at the Trade Winds shopping center opposite the Bank of the West Tower. The mall takes its name and sign design from a motel that stood on site for decades until it was razed in 2009. The space languished for years before being transformed into a complex of immaculate stucco-fronted buildings. Unfortunately, most spaces are vacant, despite the convenient location near Nob Hill and only minutes south of I-40.

Don Tortas is at the front of the mall near an Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus stop. There is a drive-in window on the north side of the building. Inside, the restaurant is bright and clean. Tangerine colored table tops enliven the small L-shaped dining area.

When I visited, there was one person tending the counter and another tending to the grill. Spanish was spoken freely.

The menu starts with five breakfast tortas ranging from $8.95 to $10.95, but if you really want the full torta experience, try La Patrona ($11.95), one of six slightly more expensive classic tortas. The individual components – tender ham, thin ribbons of breaded steak, and pulled pork leg bearing crispy edges from the grill – are excellent, but when combined with melted cheese and creamy bright green avocado, they become positively sublime. It’s good enough to stand up to with the best Philly steak and cheese.

At $12.95 to $13.95, the five Super Tortas are the most expensive items on the menu. Among these, La Burqueña ($13.95) combines carne asada with Mexican chorizo ​​in melted cheese and a tomato sauce that gave the whole thing the flavor profile of a submarine. meatballs. Postage stamp sized pieces of roasted green chili added a bit of spice. The smoky, greasy chunks of carne asada that fell from the sandwich didn’t miss as the sweet and spicy chorizo ​​was superb.

The burqueña torta combines carne asada, Mexican chorizo ​​and green chili. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Besides the Classic and Super Tortas, there are several simple options. The Jamon y Queso ($9.95) is a good choice, with lots of gooey cheese around the thinly sliced ​​ham.

Don Tortas offers both potato chips and homemade fries with the sandwiches for a small charge. You can taste both in the half-basket and the half-basket ($2.50). The pale fries were ok, a little chewy but not greasy or too salty. The fries, made in-house, were terrific, ranging from ultra-sharp thin cuts to thicker cuts that were soft in the center. I am for this trend of restaurants making their own fries.

In addition to the tortas, Don Tortas offers a rotating selection of aguas frescas lined up in large plastic barrels near the register. The slightly sweet, grassy watermelon ($3.75 for a small) was a soothing antidote to spicy food. The Horchata ($3.75 a small), spicy, creamy and sweet, was also excellent. I look forward to trying other flavors like pineapple and cucumber/lime in the future.

Don Tortas has a few desserts on the menu, as well as smoothies called Esquimos in strawberry, banana, and chocolate flavors. They weren’t available the day I left. One of the breakfast burritos was vegetarian, but I didn’t see anything on the menu identified as vegan or gluten-free.

Don Tortas celebrates one of the best sandwiches in the world. It’s a welcome addition to a historic, albeit downtrodden, stretch of old Route 66.

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