The Best Torta in New York?
"This is the best torta in New York," the young man with dimples, a tiny daughter and a Mexican accent informed me. "I used to work here, I made all the tortas. But now I come back to eat."
This, it seemed to me, was a very good sign. How many of you would go back to the place you used to work for fun? The tortas in question are made in the back of Puebla Mini Market on 5th Avenue in Sunset Park. More specifically, they're called "Tortas a la Plancha Don Pepe." Don Pepe himself was manning the front counter. He told me that he came from Puebla and opened the market in 1992. Tortas have always been his specialty.
There are no less than 22 different torta options at Don Pepe's, and they are all mind-bendingly deluxe. The sandwiches, which are indeed griddled on the plancha before being served, range from Cubana (breaded beef, sausage, ham and cheese) to Poblana (salted beef, "pork cheese," and cheese) to the Hawaiian (spicy pork, ham, pineapple and cheese) to the gringa ("spicy pork, ham, mozzerella and, again, more cheese). Oh, did I mention that all the tortas also contain onion, tomato, pickled jalapeño, avocado and refried beans? Okay?
I wasn't going to be caught dead ordering the "gringa," obviously, so I went for a special torta, handwritten on the menu board called "torta de la casa." I am now in an abusive relationship with torta de la casa. I love it, but I think it will kill me.
Here is what is going on in this amazing sandwich: It starts with a good torpedo roll, griddled so that it's crunchy on the outside, and pressed thin, almost like a panini. Then we have a thick layer of mashed avocado, then onion, tomato and a slice of chewy, mild Oaxacan cheese. Then an inch-thick layer of completely perfect carnitas, all soft hunks of pork and a few crunchy bits of skin. This is followed by a slice of ham, and a bunch of bacon, thick cut and crunchy around the edges. Is this enough? No, definitely not. The bacon gives way to carne enchilada, or spicy, marinated, thin-sliced pork. Then more cheese. Then slices of pickled jalapeños, and finally, another fat layer of bacon. The whole thing drips spicy, orange oil. My dog has never begged so hard for food in his entire life. I have never written such a long paragraph about one sandwich.
Is it the best torta in New York? I haven't tasted all the tortas in New York. And I still have 22 more varieties to taste at Don Pepe's. But it's safe to say that this is a very, very delicious and impressive torta, and that you should all go there, right now.
Puebla Mini Market
39-08 5th Avenue
Brooklyn (Sunset Park)