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First bite: Tortas Locas on South Tacoma Way

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on July 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm | 5 Comments »
July 12, 2011 11:21 pm
Tortas Locas opened June 23 on South Tacoma Way. The sandwich shop serves 17 different styles of tortas, Mexican sandwiches.

One more reason to head to South Tacoma Way for lunch: a new tortas sandwich shop.

Tortas Locas opened June 23 at 5420 South Tacoma Way in a neighborhood that’s home to quality sandwich dining – Philly Joe’s for cheesesteaks and Patty’s, home of the Cake burger, for diner style burgers (and sometime this summer, Porter’s expects it will be serving barbecue sandwiches, among other things, on South Tacoma Way).

Jose Alonso, and his wife Laura, are the husband-wife duo behind the restaurant. They operate Tortas Locas with business partner Marcos Olivera, who owns another restaurant in Burien. The family lives in Burien and operates the shop in Tacoma. Their daughter, 16-year-old Diana, a junior at Highline High School in Burien, also works at the store. I interviewed her by phone today and she translated for her mother and father.

She said her family has lived here six years, moving to the Northwest from Mexico City, where tortas are a favorite hand-held lunch. Translated Diana Alonso for her father, “We wanted something to be different. Usually here in the Seattle area, we don’t see these types of tortas. We kind of wanted to make it like what you see in Mexico. It’s not quite the same, we don’t have (access to) all the ingredients here” but the sandwiches at Tortas Locas bear a close resemblance to those sandwiches back home, she said. By “different” tortas, she meant tortas stuffed with breaded and fried cutlets and myriad ingredients you’ll have a tough time finding on tortas at taco trucks and sit-down restaurants around here.

Never had a torta? The formula is pretty basic and what you’d expect for a sandwich. Tortas, the good ones anyway, are built on a fluffy roll and toasted on the grill. Some restaurants add a swipe of beans to cement the sandwich together. Mayo is a must. Avocado, too. Shredded lettuce and tomato add crisp crunch. Jalapenos, cilantro and onions complement the flavor of slow cooked and grilled meats that are stuffed into the sandwiches (such as fried pork, also called carnitas, and strips of steak or slow-cooked beef).

So back to Alonso. Something really different about the Tortas Locas sandwiches? They’re enormous. Like two-handed affairs, and that’s just for half a sandwich. When I stopped in at the restaurant, I found a menu of 17 sandwich choices – all seemed more grandiose than the next (the menu is below), and a handful of other taqueria dishes (think burritos and sopes).

The pork leg torta sandwich at Tortas Locas.

Unlike tortas of the taco truck variety –  of which I’m a big fan – these tortas are built on a base of a giant, football shaped bun, much larger than the average taco truck torta. Alonso told me a bakery in Burien makes the buns just for the shop. Of the three sampled for this report, I thought the ham torta ($5.99) had the most flavor and most favorable texture. Torta No. 5, pork leg with chorizo ($7.99), was a touch more chewy than I would have liked, but Torta No. 9, breaded chicken ($7.49) was much more satisfying with its crunchy golden exterior that broke into a tender chicken cutlet. Shredded lettuce, tomatoes and avocado come standard on all sandwiches. Because the bun is so overwhelming, these are bready sandwiches.

Tortas Locas
Where: 5420 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma
Info: 253-473-9069

Zocalo Bakery and Torta Shop in Tacoma offers a carnitas torta sandwich with a light layer of sliced avocado, a smear of mayo, tomatoes, chopped onions and jalapenos.

If you’re a fan of tortas and are searching for another quality tortas shop, then you should stop in at Zocalo in the Lincoln District, which I wrote about here. Zocalo has one of the lengthiest menus of tortas in Tacoma. I’ll upload some pictures of their baked goods from Zocalo’s attached bakery sometime this week, but for now, here is a photo of one of Zocalo’s sandwiches.

YOUR TURN: Who serves the best tortas in town? (Yes, Torinaga, our resident tortas expert, this question is for you). Please comment below.


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