Wandering the winding back alleys of San Miguel de Allende, I first happened into Mexican sandwich nirvana at Torta Mundo. After many tortilla-laden meals, I fell hard for a lunch of crusty bolillos packed with meat and cheeses. Bowls of fresh salsa on the table to dunk your grilled sandwich in, quickly made us repeat/addicted customers. With that stroll down gourmet memory lane, I'm happy to have discovered great tortas are now available in Renton.
Tortas Locas has an established Northwest fan base, and their newest location in the Renton Highlands is their fourth location. A little background: French influence in the early 1800's brought flour and bread to Mexico, resulting in nationwide Panaderias, or bakeries. A traditional Torta is served on a bolillo, a torpedo-shaped bun toasted on a press, sliced in half and piled with savory ingredients of your choosing.
When it comes to Tortas Locas, you can go simple or crazy. For the sake of my review, I chose the latter. All tortas come on a pressed bolillo with grilled onions, sliced avocado and tomato, beans, and mayonnaise. The namesake Loca Torta ($8.99) is loaded with Milanesa (breaded steak), hot dog slices, mozzarella, Pierna (roasted, marinated pork leg), and Mexican-style chorizo. The Loquita Torta ($7.99) is a slightly simpler combination with Milanesa, mozzarella, and crumbled chorizo.
The Pambazo inherited its name from a type of peasant bread originating in Mexico's viceregal period (colonial era 1535-1821). Pambazos were traditionally served as an antojto, or street snack, a casual bite to be consumed on the go--you better have some napkins if you choose to do so. This is the full monty of a breakfast sandwich. Although Tortas Locas uses a bolillo as the base of their Pambazo ($6.99), the distinguishing feature is that the roll has been dipped in a guajillo chile and tomato sauce, then filled with potatoes and chorizo, queso fresco, crema, and lettuce. And this comes under the Tortas Sencillas (simple tortas) category?
In the eyes of Crazy Tortas, there's a wide range of dishes to choose from within the antojito category. Let's start with the Huarache ($6.99), a giant sandal-shaped boat of masa, which cradles beans, grilled onions, queso fresco, roasted nopales (cactus) and strips of steak. Tortas Locas has a simple cheese Quesadilla ($1.99) on their kid's menu, but I was thrilled to find exotic versions you rarely see in the states.
If you've gone to Mexico, you're with me on craving Huitlacoche. Without scaring you off, Huitlacoche is essentially a rare fungus that grows on ears of corn, more appetizingly known as 'Mexican truffle'. When served in a Quesadilla ($4.49), it looks like black beans have been added to the cheese in your quesadilla, but inside lies an earthy umami flavor that's hard to describe. Just order it.
Another hard-to-find Mexican option is the Quesadilla de Flor de Calabaza ($4.49). While I look forward to cooking with squash blossoms all summer, I'm assuming these were canned as it's barely spring in the Northwest, and my zucchini starts are miles away from producing flowers. Take the unique squash flavor of the blossoms, mixed with melted cheese and sandwiched in a giant folded tortilla and you've got a reason to seek out Tortas Locas.
Going beyond icing on the cake, I ordered the Gorditas Combinada ($4.49) which was much larger than I expected... Gordita means 'little fat' sandwich--a round corn cake is cut in half and filled with chicharron (deep-fried pork belly) and chorizo, queso fresco, onions, and cilantro.
There's no beer or tequila available, but you can get a fountain drink of Jamaica or Arroz for $1.75, or take out and serve with margaritas and cervezas at home. These sandwiches are worthy of their expanding empire.
3813 NE 4th St.
Renton, WA 98056