Where Vietnam has its banh mi, France its Croque Monsieur and Brazil its mortadela, Mexico has a signature sandwich all its own: the torta.
In this hefty sandwich, you’ll find a generous spread of ingredients like refried beans, creamy avocado, spicy peppers, fresh vegetables, and flavorful meats and cheeses all stuffed in your choice of Mexican bread, such as bolillo or pan telera.
For some of the best tortas in town, these Phoenix restaurants are sure to deliver.
While the name may be fairly new, the restaurant is still the same. TEG Torta Shop, formerly Tortas el Guero, is known for its fresh-made tortas, jam-packed with savory meats, fresh avocado and generous slices of cheese. That’s because owner Gustavo Lom has been serving great tortas since 2004, when he opened his shop located near the Coronado district in central Phoenix.
With about a dozen tortas on the menu, there’s plenty to choose from, including the Colitas de Pavo, made with turkey tail that’s braised and lightly fried, and served with avocado, jalapeno, tomato, lettuce, mayo and mustard.
2518 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Guaranteed to satisfy your torta cravings wherever you are in town is Tortas Paquime. With four Phoenix-area locations (and a spin-off concept called Paquime Street Food in Mexico), the mini-chain offers a generous selection of tortas “a la plancha” or “on the grill.”
While all their tortas are worthy of a try, the one to have is the Torta Ahogada, made with pork sirloin and soaked in a homemade chile and tomato sauce (available in mild, medium or hot). Then it’s topped with cream, onions and a kiss of beans for that perfect finishing touch.
There are tortas…and then there are tortas from Los Reyes de la Torta.
Catering to the heartiest of appetites, the restaurant offers hefty sandwiches stacked high with a variety of meats, cheeses, beans, vegetables and sauces. The Del Rey, for example, is made with ham, pork, breaded beef, sausage, melted cheese and an omelet (yes, an omelet), while the simpler Ahogada features carnitas in a bolillo roll covered in red salsa.
Not for the faint of heart is the Torta King Carlos V, a behemoth of a sandwich filled with pork sirloin, breaded beef and chicken, sausage, bistec (steak), chuleta (pork chop) and ham.
9230 N. 7th St., Phoenix
4333 W. Indian School Road, Phoenix
1528 E Southern Ave, Tempe
While chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café is known for her famous Cochinita Pibil, you’d be remiss not to try one of her just-as-amazing tortas. Can’t decide? The good news is the acclaimed pork dish is available in a torta, too.
Marinated in achiote and sour cream, the pork is then wrapped in a banana leaf and slow roasted overnight. The finished product is then topped with pickled red onion and Yucatan-style pico de gallo.
Other torta options include the Torta del Barrio (roasted poblano pepper), Poblana (spice- rubbed, pan-seared chicken breast) and the Filetito (grilled petite filet mignon).
2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Chef and restaurateur Doug Robson knows a thing or two about Mexican food. The popular Phoenix chef was born and raised just outside of Mexico City, whose cuisine continued to make a lasting impression long after Robson left Mexico for San Antonio, then Arizona to attend culinary school.
As owner of downtown’s Gallo Blanco, he offers a fresh take on traditional Mexican cuisine. While there is a variety to choose from, the signature Naco is the torta at its best. Served open-faced, it’s topped with tender rib eye, creamy avocado and two eggs, over easy.
928 E. Pierce St., Phoenix
While many Mexican restaurants serve the gamut of traditional dishes—from tacos and burritos, to enchiladas and quesadillas—Tortas El Rey primarily serves tortas, about 20 of them to be exact. Here, the classic Mexican sandwich is represented through a mind-boggling variety of options, from the Mexicana (steak, grilled onions, jalapenos) to the Hawayana (ham, cheese, pork, pineapple). But for the ultimate torta feast, it’s the El Rey you must have. A meat lover’s dream, it’s filled with ham, cheese, pork, breaded beef, bacon, chorizo, sausage, chipotle sauce and egg, for good measure.
1811 N. 24th St., Phoenix
Started by the Ochoa sisters—all five of them—Los Taquitos pays tribute to their mother’s recipes for authentic Mexican cuisine. Using only fresh ingredients, dishes include handmade burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas and, of course, tortas.
Available with such fillings as carne asada, carnitas, chicken, pastor and lengua, they’re made with soft telera bread and dressed with fresh lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onions and salsa. Featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” and “Guy’s Big Bite,” the restaurant is no stranger to being recognized for making a darn good torta.
7000 N. 16th St., Phoenix
4747 E. Elliot Road, Phoenix
2855 W Ray Rd., Chandler
For something off the beaten path, stroll along the grounds of The Farm at South Mountain to The Farm Kitchen, one of the three restaurants on the sprawling farmland in south Phoenix.
On the menu is a lovely ham and cheese torta, made with local ham from the Phoenix Meat Shop, aged cheddar cheese, tepary bean spread, avocado, tomatoes and lettuce. Enjoy your meal on the shaded patio or at a picnic table under a tree in the pecan grove, making for a perfect lunch away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Be sure to check The Farm's website for seasonal operating hours as they may be closed during summer.
6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix