Run an image search for "torta" and you'll find many small variations on a single theme: lots of meat, avocado and shredded iceberg lettuce stuffed in an enormous loaf of soft, lightly crusted roll. Sometimes there is cheese; sometimes there are hot dogs. Almost always there is heartburn.
Order a torta at Torta-Landia, a rancho-themed restaurant that opened in July in the former Rock Cafe building just off Southeast Foster Road, and you'll get a sandwich that's related but unfamiliar. It's as if a member of the Torta family—little María Jesus—had been sent off to boarding school for eight years and returned insisting everyone call her MJ. Not content with the passé squishiness of the bolillo, she opts instead for the classy chew of a "bolo roll" from Grand Central Bakery, and she rejects mayonnaise for "tequila-chili aioli."
Torta-Landia's sandwiches are, in short, not a fitting substitute for the enormous, heart-stopping absurdities dished by La Catrina, which caters to honest laborers in need of fuel. Like most products of culinary gentrification, they are a little smaller, a little healthier and, at $9 to $10 with one side, a little more expensive. But that's not bad. Although the al pastor is a little dry and the carnitas are a little soft, the sandwiches, overloaded with aioli, crema and avocado, are, for all their differences, quite good. The carne asada, dressed with cheese and peppers over big, tender hunks of seared cow, is downright delicious. Sides are fine—tasty beans and fried potato fritters are standouts. The enormous burritos ($5-$8) lean, as they should, toward California, loaded with ripe avocado and wrapped in housemade tortillas. But most important, Torta-Landia, with its pleasant casual service, free-jazz soundtrack and tap list featuring the micro favorites of the day (Double Mountain, Southern Oregon, Fort George), is a nice place to hang out on a stretch of Foster that has very few such places. For that, we'll even overlook the name.
- Order this: Carne asada torta, $10.
- Best deal: Two tacos for $3 from 3-5 pm Tuesday-Friday and 9 pm-close Tuesday-Sunday.
- Iâll pass: Lovers of traditional al pastor will be disappointed.
EAT: Torta-Landia, 4144 SE 60th Ave., 445-9966, tortalandia.com. 3 pm-close Tuesday-Friday, 11 am-close Saturday-Sunday. $.