You’ve had tortas smeared with black beans and stuffed full of meat, avocado, and pickled jalapeños. You’ve sampled NYC’s cemitas, the gargantuan sandwiches that have traveled north with immigrants from Puebla. And maybe you’ve even stained your fingers orange eating the chile-dipped, potato-filled pambazo that rounds out a holy trinity of popular Mexican sandwiches assembled in our taquerias and bodegas.
But in Mexico City, there’s a lot more where that came from—the sandwich permutations are endless, with everything from chilaquiles to tamales finding their way between two slices of bread. Here are five we’d like to see make their way into our zip code.
These bean- and cheese-slathered baguettes are probably similar to a snack you made yourself in high school. Cheap wheat bread is sliced horizontally and spread with refried beans, layered with mild cheese, and popped into the toaster. The Mexican-style French bread pizza is then broiled until crisp and melty, and served with pico de gallo or hot sauce on the side. In Mexico City, molletes are a big-time brunch item for the fashionable crowds luxuriating al fresco on the weekends. Use a fork and knife to eat this one, you savage.
Torta de Tamal
This sandwich is just starting to make inroads among NYC’s Mexican communities. A torta de tamal is assembled on street-corners in the early morning at mobile tamale carts, which unleash plumes of steam from their pots of warm, corn-husk wrapped dumplings packed with rajas, puerco en salsa verde, spicy chicken in red sauce, and sweet corn-studded with raisins. A bolillo roll is then split and a tamale, usually savory, is unwrapped and slipped into the middle—no mayo, no crema, no nothing. It’s a quick, cheap, starchy breakfast for workers on the go.
Torta de Chilaquiles
This sandwich takes breakfast to the next level. Similar to the torta de tamal (and often sold by the same vendors), it features a bolillo roll that has been split and scraped out to make room for heaps of green or red chilaquiles. Frosted with crema and cotija cheese, a torta de chilaquiles is more loaded than a Chicago-style hot dog. The rich, starch-on-starch creation is perfect hangover food that you barely have to chew before stumbling home to sleep.
Torta de Pollo, Rostizado-Style
There are hundreds of rotisserie chicken stands plying burnished hens to the 20 million-plus residents of Mexico City. The chickens—rubbed with achiote, ground chiles, and sour orange—rotate and sizzle on spits, dripping their melting fat onto piles of sliced white onion below. When you order a torta de pollo, the cooks strip the carcass of meat and skin, then use scissors to chop it all together with pieces of shmaltz-slicked onion. Piled onto cheap rolls and doused in rusty-red chipotle salsa, it’s a exquisite, modern invention that cannot get any better.
Torta de Cochinita Pibil
The juicy, shredded cochinita pibil that goes into these sandwiches is marinated in garlic, chiles, and sour orange, then braised (traditionally, in a pit underground, but an oven will do) and topped with pickled red onions. The whole package is tart and wet—a supremely savory handful that turns to mush ten minutes after it’s assembled, almost like a Mexican sloppy joe.