The torta and the even larger cemita, the plus-sized sandwiches in the Mexican sandwich canon, are as legendary for their girth and heft as their plentiful layering of meats upon meats. And in New York City, you can find many worthy versions. The tortas at Puebla Mini Market (3905 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-435-3326), one of which contains beef stew and chicken tinga, are composed with a precision usually reserved for the operating room, while the lauded Tortas Neza (11103 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens; 718-505-2121) constructs the gargantuan Torta Puma with so much deli meat, egg, and cheese that just looking at it is enough to elevate your blood pressure.
But tortas and cemitas can be good for vegetarians as well, especially at the newly opened La Norteña in Williamsburg (255 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-388-3045), the spawn of La Norteña in Greenpoint.
Below the list of tortas ($6) made with meat, the salted beef cecina, the carne enchilada lashed with chile, the chicken or beef milanese fried golden, and the cubana with roast pork, ham, cheese, and egg, there is a chile relleno torta. Depending on the day, the torta may come on a cemita roll, slightly sweet and plastered with sesame seeds. Beans are spread on the bottom, upon which are stacked standard sandwich fixings of tomato, lettuce, onion, and, finally, the chile relleno, its stem curling out from under the bun. The chile is stuffed, battered, fried, and bathed in tomato sauce, which saturates the sandwich in a manner similar to a good meatball sub. It’s graced with more cheese, mild queso oaxacano, that plays off the eggy clog of panela cheese at the chile’s center.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.