At Tacos D.F., the torta takes over for the sandwich

American sandwich-makers have come a long way. Now that serious, heavyweight chefs have begun muscling in on the action (see my review of Masterpiece Delicatessen, page 51), a boy of eclectic appetites can easily score a Cuban, a banh mi, a beef on weck, a Croque Monsieur, a panini or almost any other kind of international down-home sandwich.

The one thing our own born-and-bred sandwich artists haven't yet managed to co-opt: the torta. I've seen attempts made, but they've all been failures. And I am firmly of the belief that this failing lies not in the American cook's inability to translate a recipe, or even the spirit of a dish, but simply in their unwillingness to make something as messy, ugly and downright chaotic as a proper torta must be. It's a culinary-culture thing. American restaurants, for so long deprived of anything like a canon to call their own, prospered by taking foods from everyone else's home countries and making them pretty. Design — that's the thing we had in spades back in the dark days. And one thing a torta can never be is designed.

For a true south-of-the-border torta, go to Tacos D.F. Everything at this smallish strip-mall Mexican operation is wonderful: The tacos are killer, the gorditas things of beauty, the entire menu a greatest-hits list of everything I love, nothing I don't, and even a few things I don't recognize (Mexican consomme?). But the best item on the menu is the torta: messy, dripping, delicious, and offered in several variations. There's the extreme-sports version of a sandwich — the Cubano — that comes as a big stack of ham and pounded, breaded, fried steak, avocados, lettuce and sauce with a hot dog in the middle. There's the D.F., served "combinación que usted quiera" — basically a you-call-it sandwich of whatever's available in the back. There's a steak Milanese and one that has to do with the leg of something (according to the hand-drawn picture on the wall, it could be a lamb). But the one I love — the one I dropped in for just a few days ago — is the jamón: sliced ham stacked on a grilled and lardy Mexican sandwich roll with chopped lettuce, avocado and a wet slurry of a sauce involving smoky-hot chipotles and some sort of lubricant that might be mayonnaise but also might not. I've never asked and, frankly, I don't want to know — because somehow knowing everything that goes into my sandwich's construction would kill the magic for me.


Tacos D.F.

Tacos D.F.
2020 South Parker Road, Aurora

And anyway, if it ever becomes an issue, I can always go back and check the shirt I was wearing. Swear to God, half of that damn sandwich ended up there. But the rest of it — the part I actually managed to get into my mouth — still stands as the best torta in town.

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