The Case Of The Grooviest Torta

Two weeks ago, we wrote a post on some findings from a day of processing menus, including Mothers-In-Law (tamales in buns with chili) on the North Side and Mexico City-style tortas at La Baguette on the South Side.

All this piqued the interest of Peter Engler a.k.a. Rene G, one of the superstars of LTHForum, and the MIL expert we quoted about the no-MIL-on-the-North-Side thing. Turns out what he meant was, no one on the North Side calls it as such, but the component ingredients of the Mother-In-Law are on plenty of North Side menus. We stand corrected!

Engler also had insight into the torta chilanga (milanesa, chorizo, ham and queso fresco), one of the Mexico City-style tortas we mentioned in the post. He wrote:

Tortas chilangas are not too uncommon in Chicago. Doña Torta Chilanga (2152 W Cermak) sounds like a good place to begin. A large window sign also advertises tortas guapachosas (I had no idea what those were until today). BomBon Café (38 S Ashland) makes an upscale version with ham, salami, Serrano ham and queso Chihuahua. On the north side you can get them at Cardona’s (3537 W Lawrence), filled with milanesa, queso Oaxaca and chiles poblanos. Although there are some common features, the ingredients tend to vary.

We have the menu for Dona Torta Chilanga (courtesy of Peter), and it’s remarkably similar to La Baguette’s menu — right down to titling the first category of the menu “Super Tortas - ‘Las Guapachosas” (guapachosa meaning “groovy,” approximately) with the subtitle “Estilo D.F.” (Mexico City-style). Many of the tortas on the list are the same, although that’s not really so surprising. Perhaps the main difference between the two is that DTC charges fifty cents more ($4.75 vs $4.25) for its tortas, but that’s neither here nor there.

The conspiracy theorist in us didn’t get very far along in its investigation because neither restaurant has English-speaking staff, but that could be a ruse! Incidentally, Dona Torta Chilanga’s menu doesn’t resemble Dona Torta’s menu in the slightest. Go figure.

Anyway, there’s still a mystery surrounding the tortas guapachosasa, which appear on both menus. La Baguette’s has milanesa, queso y pierna (i.e. breaded steak, brick cheese & sliced pork shoulder), while Dona Torta Chilanga’s contains milanesa, pierna, queso amarillo, jamon y salchicha (i.e. breaded steak, flank steak, cheddar cheese and a hot dog). What makes this all the more strange is that “torta guapachosa” receives virtually no hits on Google, while “torta chilanga” has several thousand (although the top two are Yelp’s page for DTC and our previous blog entry on the subject, so take it with a grain of salt).

The way we want to imagine it is, two brothers from Mexico City were up late one night with the munchies and they each constructed a torta that, under the circumstances, they named “groovy.” And then they came to Chicago and opened competing torta shops, and one did quite well (La Baguette has a dozen locations, it seems), while the other has had to languish in his brother’s shadow. Isn’t this narrative more entertaining than the truth?

Because the truth would have to encompass an explanation for why there’s a hot dog in DTC’s guapachosa, an addition truly beyond the bounds of rational behavior and certainly good taste. We would, nevertheless, eat this sandwich in its entirety.

Dona Torta Chilanga [MenuPages]
La Baguette [MenuPages]
La Baguette [Official Site]

[Photo: Dona Torta Chilanga’s guapachosa torta, via Peter Engler]

The Case Of The Grooviest Torta