The Gringa torta at Tortas Mexico. Rhett Brinkley

A friend of mine told me that he’s embarrassed about how much he’s been using DoorDash recently, but that he’s proud of what he’s been ordering, an almost exclusive variety of tortas from the Mexican restaurant Tortas Mexico. “Where is it located?” I asked. He made his signature embarrassed face again because he wasn’t sure. He had an idea though. “Levy?”

Within days, he and I were sitting at a table by the window in the restaurant — he was right, it is located in Levy at 1000 W 37th St. — sharing a giant carafe containing more free salsa than the two of us could comfortably put away. The restaurant’s name is fitting, considering there are 20 tortas on the menu: milanesa de res, milanesa de pollo, two Hawaiian-style subs, breakfast tortas, a Mexican grilled cheese, tri-meat blends that include hot dog wieners, as well as al pastor, asada, carnitas and fajita tortas. Each torta is dressed with mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and avocado. They range from $9.50 to $13 and are served in baskets that can barely contain them, so they’re slightly stacked on top of each other and wrapped in red and white checkered paper. It’s not that the baskets are small, it’s that one half of the torta is as big as your face. They’re also served with two large squeeze bottles full of red and green hot sauce. The bread is lightly grilled, so it has a nice, crispy texture on the outside to contrast its softer inside, which absorbs the flavor of its filling. I went with the al pastor, which was chopped up and perfectly spicy. The standard dressing is just right. There’s a detectable amount of mayo but not too much. The jalapenos are abundant enough to taste and feel their heat, but there’s no reason to fear them. The bread was fresh and had the perfect chew. “Oh, wow,” I said audibly.

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Rhett Brinkley

My friend, who was savoring the milanesa de pollo, simply uttered, “Yeah, dude.” It was so good I wanted to be able to devour it all, but it simply wasn’t possible. Maybe I could’ve taken it down as a teenager or during my heavy stoner years of my early twenties. It still would’ve hurt, though. The milanesa torta had two tenderized slices of battered chicken on each half! We both took our other halves to go, and my buddy was excited to have his work dinner taken of, making up for the fact that he was running at least 30 minutes late.

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I went back with some friends about a week later. This time I wanted to try the caldo de res ($13) — a beef soup I saw several diners enjoying on my previous visit. It’s a hearty soup with a flavorful, rich broth full of big, piping hot chunks of carrots, zucchini, cabbage and potatoes and at least two-thirds of single cob of corn. Right on top was a mound of fork tender chuck roast. It’s served with rice and fresh tortillas and easily a 10/10, especially on the cold, dreary Groundhog Day we were celebrating.

Rhett Brinkley
CALDO DE RES.

A friend who ordered the Gringa torta with fajita chicken, Oaxaca cheese and bell peppers praised the bread’s texture and said it’s amazing how much is packed into the sandwich without it being overloaded. It was also objectively fetching, a colorful, Instagrammable creation worthy of further attention.

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Rhett Brinkley
FIT FOR TELEVISION: The Gringa.

Another friend tried the Tlaxcalteca torta with beef, grilled onions, cilantro, lime juice and a thick slice of panela cheese, which he said really set it off and had a texture that reminded him of a mix of feta and mozzarella.

Rhett Brinkley
TLAXCALTECA.

He was so inspired by the sandwich that he started shopping for panini presses online that evening. And they both left with half a sandwich — a whole by most standards — for a later meal and lunch for the wife.

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