One part burrito and two parts sandwich, the torta is the ultimate flavor mash-up. Torta Grill owners Stephen and Ardeni Clifton (Ardeni is a native of Mexico City) are so enraptured with this classic Mexican eat—fat sandwiches stuffed with burrito and taco-esque fillings—that they named their Colfax Avenue restaurant after the lunchtime staple.
The bare-bones space (Torta Grill is less a restaurant and more a lunch counter) is no larger than my home kitchen, but you hardly go to hang out. Instead, you’ll perch on one of the five seats trying to decide what to order. The Carlito with carnitas and serrano-avocado salsa? The Pablo with ham, pineapple, pork loin, and cheese? The Enrique with cactus, eggs, panela cheese, and crushed red peppers? No matter which combo you choose, the sandwich’s base is always the same: refried beans, avocado, tomato, onions, and mayo on a chewy telera roll.
You’ll watch as Stephen and his crew assemble your order and then you’ll either gulp it down or take it to go. These sandwiches are messy (especially when you add smoky chipotle sauce), thickly layered, and served hot off the griddle. And yet they never feel heavy. It’s easy to devour the massive serving in one sitting, but try this instead: Save one half for later, and supplement with one of the eatery’s tightly rolled tamales stuffed with chicken and red chile sauce.
And don’t miss the aguas frescas, the fresh juices so prevalent in Mexico. My favorite of the bunch (the flavors range from carrot and pineapple to strawberry and horchata) is the cool, if slightly Americanized, cucumber lemonade.
Now get this: A refreshing agua fresca, two stacked sandwiches, and an expert tamale will cost you less than 20 bucks. Yes, really. Bonus: The Cliftons just introduced breakfast tacos. Expect them to be every bit as transcendent as the flavor-jammed tortas. 1818 E. Colfax Ave., 720-420-0964, tortagrill.com
Tamales (red or green) $2
Cucumber lemonade $3.50–$4.50