Sandwich of the Week: Las Tortas Locas' La Torta Nortena

The Mexican torta is a great sandwich, and this Atlanta-based chain does it right
“La Norteña” contains steak with creamy asadero cheese, slices of ripe avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a layer of mayo.

One of the best sandwiches on earth is the torta, the Mexican submarine-style job that’s traditionally served on crusty roll called a bolillo and stuffed with all manner of meats and cheese, vegetables grilled and fresh, and salsas and other condiments. The bread should be crisp on the outside, cottony on the inside, and the sandwich should be above all appealingly messy, as if designed to fill you up with a sensory overload of textures and flavors. “I know of no other sandwich that…gives so much surprise and pleasure to the uninitiated,” the Mexican food authority Diane Kennedy writes.

And one of the best places — in the U.S., anyway — to enjoy a classic torta is at a branch of the Atlanta area mini-chain Las Tortas Locas (or “LTL,” as aficionados like to call it), owned by Mexico City natives and longtime veterans of Atlanta’s Mexican restaurant scene Salvador and Rosalia Avila. There are eight outposts of this barebones franchise, each with counter service only and no frills. The menu includes all of the classics like tacos and burritos, plus notably tasty foot-long flautas and reliably executed huaraches (thick tortillas spread with refried beans, grilled, and then topped with your choice of the usual suspects). But it’s the namesake tortas that set the standard: The bread is housemade, the fillings are fresh and delicious, and even the salsa bar is a cut above, lined with dishes of sliced fresh limes, radishes, onions, cilantro, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, and salsas from bright orange to subtle green with many shades of red in between.

For a little less than six bucks you can feast on tortas including the “La Campesina” (carne asada, chorizo, and peppers), the “Espanola” (chorizo, head cheese, and softly scrambled eggs), and my favorite, “La Norteña,” steak pounded thin, breaded and fried, and stacked with creamy asadero cheese, slices of ripe avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a layer of mayo for binding. I savor every bite.

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