Restaurant News

A Promising Torta Shop in South Phoenix

A deep fried turkey torta at Tortas Manny is south Phoenix.
A deep fried turkey torta at Tortas Manny is south Phoenix. Chris Malloy
Tortas Manny in south Phoenix produces the kind of tortas that are soft everywhere except the interior, toasted to a thin layer of crispness. The roll is yielding, missing the slight chew that some telera rolls have, amplifying the pillowy nature via avocados and tomatoes if you answer “yes” when asked if you want everything on your sandwich. (You might be answering “si.” If you speak English, the shop owners know just enough to take your order, tell you the cochinita pibil is very spicy, and recommend the berry agua fresca.)

This new, no-frills shop on Seventh and Southern avenues makes a good, solid torta. The rolls are soft and a little sweet. Their fillings are hearty but not so brawny that they dwarf the bread. There are nine tortas on the menu: eight with meat, one perfunctory vegetarian option.

click to enlarge The brick, color, and leather of Tortas Manny. - CHRIS MALLOY
The brick, color, and leather of Tortas Manny.
Chris Malloy
The cashier standing before the vibrant, amply lighted dining room’s crimson and lime-leaf-green walls may vouch for the Especial Manny, a sandwich of sliced cheese and two kinds of hot pork.

All elements stacked toward softness, this is a nice torta. A better option, the deep fried turkey torta, works by warping the softness quotient. Shreds and bits of turkey — dark red, fry-brown, or lobster-pink — have chew and crisp depending on how exactly, if at all, skin clings to morsels. The turkey is succulent, with that deep, homey flavor that good turkey has. Each bite is a little different. A decent piquant salsa gooses the bird.

This torta shop, you will see on its big yellow menu, has far more than Mexican-style sandwiches. Burros, enchiladas, quesadillas, a healthy range of desserts, and a few interesting starters highlight.

Also: tacos. (The four taco meats are also available as tortas.)

Cochinita pibil wasn’t as incendiary as advertised, but it was a respectable version. The pork was tender, smoky, and congenially heaped onto a soft double corn tortilla. Deshebrada rajas, green chile beef, was even more generously portioned, spooned out in an oblong line so long it ran clean off the taco. It isn’t as deliciously assertive as the cochinita, but may be more cooked to the point that its proteins are just collapsing.

click to enlarge Three tacos from a torta joint. - CHRIS MALLOY
Three tacos from a torta joint.
Chris Malloy
Tacos don’t come with much. Chopped cabbage. Whole cilantro leaves. No acid blasts, cool cremas, or whipsawing salsas to get in the way of the spotlighted meat.

There are a few items on the menu at Tortas Manny that you don’t see at many places. One is Chilindrinas, a street food associated with Juarez, a Mexican town just south over the border from El Paso, Texas. This massive “snack” is like a flatbread but with a sheet of fried pork skin for the base, a cold topping of mostly avocados, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and a disproportionate ratio of toppings to crust, all zagged with chile sauce and sluiced with a mayo-like crema. It’s alright. Not quite worth the stomach real estate.

The tacos and tortas, however, are. And that portends well for the rest of the menu. If you’re cruising south Phoenix and looking for a torta or similarly comforting meal, check out Tortas Manny.

Tortas Manny. 845 West Southern Avenue; 602-603-9264.
Daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy