Binge and Splurge

When my mother was alive, we would take weekend trips to Tijuana for eating binges that I still remember fondly. You know what I'm talking about food so good that you can't stop eating it. A food-a-thon so out of control that it requires you to undo the top button of your pants.

We would park the car and within minutes we would be snacking on delicious tacos de adobada (marinated pork). Then we'd walk around for an hour or so and then head over to La Especial or Mariscos La Costa. After a delicious lunch, we would spend a few hours shopping the back streets with the locals. Finally, hungry or not, we would head over to Tortas Ricardo to eat their delicious pork sandwich with pickled jalapeños. Boy, do I miss my mother, and those delicious tortas (a Mexican-style hoagie sandwich).

The tortas found on local menus, unfortunately, have failed to duplicate those wonderful flavors. Until now.

I was at a food show last week and spotted two mexicanos wearing cool tee shirts that featured a drawing of a torta. I almost ran down the cheese vendor in my pursuit to chase down the two guys, and they looked at me like I was a mad woman. Within an hour I was at their north Phoenix store, Tortas La Presa, located on Seventh Street and Hatcher, and soon I was transported back to Tijuana and Tortas Ricardo. Food so good that you can't stop eating is exactly what I found. These Dagwoodian tortas made with fresh telera bread from La Purisima Bakery are filled with items such as roasted pork, jam, provolone cheese, egg, chorizo, avocado and milanesa beef all in one sandwich!

This little hole-in-the-wall is painted in bright colors, and the music is way too loud, but so what? The owners are from Mexico City, and you can detect a "city" feel to their restaurant. Tortas La Presa is named after the owners' old barrio in Mexico City. The place offers more than 10 different tortas to choose from, as well as tacos, of course. You can find a large variety of them, as well as the famous Mexican hamburger.

Want to eat on the lighter side? Then try one of their pico de gallo cocktails, made with a choice of mango, jicama, cucumber, melon, watermelon or papaya, and then topped with a dusting of chile powder, salt and fresh lime juice. You can also have a fresh fruit licuado a sort of milk shake made without the ice cream.

After polishing off a giant torta, a taco de cabeza (cow's head taco) and a papaya licuado, I walked out of Tortas La Presa full of fond memories of my mother and our TJ trips, happy to have finally found a worthy torta in the United States, and a place that was so good it made me unbutton my top button. Overeaters Anonymous, here I come!

The author is a local chef and restaurant owner.

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Silvana Salcido Esparza