Dining

Lost in Translation

Discovering the gordita.

By
April 2008

Twice a week, Arnold Rubio, Tamayo's chef de cuisine, eats gorditas for lunch. Of all the meals on Tamayo's acclaimed menu, he opts for a dish of fried corn tortilla-like masa filled with spicy chipotle-rubbed chicken, shredded lettuce, cheese, tomato, and pico de gallo. The meal is quick, filling, and flavorful—just the energizing fast food Rubio needs before he goes back to the line.

If Rubio were in Mexico, the homeland of the gordita, his lunch might not be much different. In a short 15-minute break, he'd pop over to a street-side stand and gobble up the dish that's as ubiquitous as the taco. From northern Mexico to the southern Yucatán, gorditas are an all-hour snack that bridges the gaps between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Made with thick fried or baked tortillas or masa, gorditas wrap fillings as varied as mushrooms, fried pork chicharrónes, or beans, cheese, and chiles.

Despite their Mexican popularity, gorditas haven't quite caught on in the United States. The problem is not availability, as countless local eateries serve them either as specials or everyday menu options. Even Taco Bell offers three variations.

But as chef Sean Yontz, Mexican food expert and co-owner of Mezcal and Tambien, suggests, diners view the gordita as less familiar, and thus less accessible. "People love gorditas when we sell them. But the fish taco is still one of our most popular dishes," he says. "It's just going to take time for diners to know what gorditas are." We're confident, however, that once diners discover the dish, they're likely to end up like Rubio—eating gorditas twice a week for lunch. Here's a list of our favorite gordita-serving spots.

Tamayo
400 Larimer St.
Eat: Gorditas with spicy chipotle chicken

La Loncheria
32nd Avenue and Clay Street
Eat: Gorditas with rajas (green chiles)

El Taco de Mexico
714 Santa Fe Drive
Eat: Gorditas with carne asada

Tacos Jalisco
309 W. 38th Ave.
Eat: Gorditas with chicken and cheese

Mezcal
3230 E. Colfax Ave.
Eat: Gorditas with chicharrónes (only served as a special)