In Latin American countries, the word “torta” has different meanings; to some it’s a sweet cake, to others an egg and potato dish and to others, especially in Guadalajara, Mexico, it’s a Mexican sandwich. In Denver, it’s a meat sandwich on a toasted roll called a bolillo or telera bread, with avocado, chipotle sauce, jalapenos, tomato, onion and lots of cheese. The only rule is not to wear a white shirt if you plan to order a torta. There is no delicate way to eat these gooey sandwiches, so roll up your sleeves and dig in.
The Black Crow Food Truck
1525 ½ Blake St
Denver, CO 80202
This food truck is a little brother to the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant on Blake Street in LoDo. It’s next door to the Rio (or go through the Rio) and includes a patio for live music and movies. The menu is tacos, tortas, appetizers and a margarita and beer bar. The tortas are sandwiched in traditional telera bread and come with seasoned fries. The fillings include barbacoa meat with marinated escabeche grilled vegetables and black bean spread; cilantro-lime chicken and chipotle mayonnaise; a vegetarian grilled portobello with grilled queso fresco, avocado and black bean spread; chorizo with escabeche vegetables, cheddar cheese and black bean spread; and for Cajun fans, a Mexican shrimp with fried shrimp, poblano sauce and dill pickles.
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5307 Leetsdale Drive
Denver, CO 80246
The founder of La Tortas is originally from Guadalajara, which means he is uniquely qualified to introduce this famous street food to Colorado. Founder Guillermo Campillo and his business partner, Tymen Schreuder, engaged Campillo’s Aunt Maru to develop the sauce recipes for smothered tortas (hence the advice on the white shirt). Las Tortas fillings include eggs for breakfast tortas and 11 different meats, including beef barbacoa, pulled pork, chorizo, smoked pork chops, breaded steak, chicken, grilled chicken, pork loin and hot dogs. The chicken and pork is marinated in orange-lime-chipotle sauce. The tried-and-true authentic house favorites are the Ahogada Tradicional with carnitas and refried beans smothered in tomato and chile sauce and served with pickled onions, and the Ahogada Gema with carnitas, mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos smothered in the housemade Gema sauce (tomatoes, dried ancho chilies and chipotle). For those who can’t make up their mind, the La Macha will satisfy every last craving with steak Milanese, chorizo and a fried egg pressed between a roll. Although Las Tortas is street food at its best, you won’t feel like you are eating off the street; it’s clean, simple and very well done.
1818 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80218
A frequent comment from people who eat at Torta Grill is, “Why would I ever eat at Subway again?” If you are looking for a quick sandwich that doesn’t skimp on flavor, this is the place. The menu has a beachy vibe with traditional torta fillings like pork loin, breaded steak, chorizo and chicken served with tropical fruit, jicama, cucumber or coconut. At Torta Grill, you have your choice of jalapeno peppers, chipotle sauce or jalapeno jelly. The Torta Grill Special is a massive kitchen-sink sandwich with pork loin, breaded steak, ham, chorizo, eggs, hot dogs, bacon and cheese. To wash it all down, Torta Grill makes fresh juices from citrus, melon, berries and pineapple and housemade cucumber lemonade.
712 Peoria St
Aurora, CO 80011
The menu is in Spanish (English translations available) and there is a steady stream of locals all the time—both are good indicators of a good torta spot. The menu is simple and good. The sandwiches come with a turtle-shaped bun, which must be connected to the namesake of the restaurant. Crowd favorites are tortas with pork, pork sausage, eggs, beans, avocado, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos, chopped pork, ham and creamy Oaxaca cheese and the Hawaiian with pork and pineapple.
1400 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80202
Tamayo might not seem like a torta kind of place, but since its founder executive chef Richard Sandavol has a deeply-rooted dedication to authentic Mexican food, it makes perfect sense. So if you like high-class tequila juxtaposed with a Mexican street-food sandwich, then this is the place. The menu has but one torta sandwich, Torta de Tinga de pollo, with shredded chicken, black bean puree, avocado, lettuce, tomato, queso Oaxaca and chipotle aioli. While the surroundings may be prettier than other torta restaurants around town, the sandwich is just as messy and good.
Related: Top Mexican Food In Denver
Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.