Tortas, Tortas, Tortas At Tortas Sinaloa!

For the past year, as I've traveled across the United States promoting my Taco USA book, I've always told the audience how to become a millionaire: sell tortas. This always comes at the end of my lecture, when I tell people about the current Mexican-food trends taking over the country (regional specialties and the gentrification of Mexican alcohol) and what's next. Tortas, tortas, tortas! In all seriousness, while we in OC have long grown accustomed to the Mexican sandwiches made of bolillos, they have yet to take off in the rest of the United States—given America's love affair with Mexican food and sandwiches, they're waiting to become the next Chipotle.

While most Mexican restaurants in OC sell tortas, there's really no equivalent to LA's Cook's Tortas, a mini-chain raking in the masa by selling them to gabachos. The old-school Q's Tortas up in Placentia is still delicious after all these years, but the true king is Tortas Sinaloa in SanTana, which sells an amazing 60 types. Tortas with milanesa, carne asada, ham, pork shank, hot dogs—or, in the case of the epic No. 44, all of them combined. They're stuffed with beans, bacon, avocado, either queso panela or Oaxaca—or, in the case of the Picosita, a layer of diced habaneros spread beneath the cheese so it punches you when least expected. It's one glorious torta fugue: crunchy bread, finely cooked meats, cheese crisped on the surface yet retaining its creamy center, the results staying orderly inside the bolillo instead of exploding upon one bite as at so many other places. And all orders come with a side of fries—who says Mexicans don't assimilate?

There's little else for sale at Tortas Sinaloa—some combo plates, menudo all day and an awesome mollete (essentially Mexican bruschetta, featuring one bolillo slice smeared with beans, your choice of cheese and salsa). And I wish it sold actual Sinaloan specialties such as chilorio and aguachile. But a special shout-out to the aguas frescas. Not only are they made fresh every day, not only are there usually eight choices standing in chilled glass jugs (ranging from tried-and-true horchata and tamarindo to strawberry and even mamey), but a large order comes in a stein as large as an Oktoberfest Mass Krug. If it franchised this concept, Tortas Sinaloa could become as big as Taqueria de Anda—and it has already started, with locations in Baldwin Park, Fontana and Ontario. And the Mexican-food conquest goes on. . . .

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