Had Steve Ells found his inspiration for Chipotle in Guadalajara rather than San Francisco's Mission District, the result would have been Las Tortas. Instead, this spot inside a weird little strip mall/roadside plaza space that was once home to Les Delices de Paris (now at 600 South Holly Street) is the brain-baby of Guillermo Campillo and Tymen Schrueder (of Rincón del Sol in Boulder).
Las Tortas sells tortas and nothing but tortas -- about two dozen varieties of tortas, from the simplest steak-and-chicken Jalisco to the most bizarrely overpowering La Macha with steak Milanesa, chorizo, chile, a fried egg and a hot dog crammed all together on a roll. There's a counter on one side where you order and pick up (just like at Chipotle), a few high-top tables on the other, a cooler with Mexican Coke and beer by the bottle, and a couple of TVs hanging from the ceiling playing telenovelas and Video Rola. The place is simple and spare and unbelievably awesome.
Why? Because Campillo -- a native of Guadalajara, where some of his family still lives -- knows how to make tortas. And whatever he didn't already know, he brought in family to help him figure out. Everything here is cooked fresh to order (meats pulled raw out of big meat drawers by the flat grill, sauces and condiments added at the counter), and the sandwiches are massive -- about the heft of a good-sized cat, and stacked thick. I had a Michoacana my first time through (carnitas and pork loin with raw white onion and tomato, along with the standard sauces, avocado and whatnot), and was on the phone before I'd even swallowed my first bite, calling friends to tell them how good it was. On my second run, I got the Pachuqueña wth steak Milanesa, more pork loin and cheese. And if anything, it was even better.
But the torta you must order is the Lambada -- a heavyweight sandwich of pork loin, chorizo and fried egg. It ain't healthy. It won't keep you thin. But from the moment you take your first bite until the instant you lick the last of the sauce off your fingers, you'll be thanking me.
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