*** The Torta Factory has closed.
This little shop on El Cajon Boulevard opened up about three weeks ago. The balloons, and "Grand Opening Banner" beckoned me in.
The menu is simple, but growing everyday. On my first visit it had Tortas, Quesadillas, breakfast items, and Cemitas. They have now added tacos and huaraches, and I watch with glee as the ball of masa is formed and a tortilla is pressed out for its destiny as a huarache (huarache = "slipper", and is a slipper sized "tortilla" of sorts, topped with any number of items). The restaurant is pretty clean, and simply attired.
The salsa bar is standard, with all of the usual suspects.
My first visit was fun, the gentleman, who I believe is the owner is very friendly, and is eager to please. The prices are a bit higher than your regular taco shop, and watching the tortas being assembled, I knew this wasn't "just another taco shop."
I had Torta Milanesa de Res (breaded beef torta - $5.29):
What struck me about this torta was the bolillo (bread), it was light and airy, the crust was, well crusty, without being hard, and it was not overtoasted.
The milanesa was light and moist, but very mild in flavor. The smear of beans was just right, and most of all, this wasn't dredged in mayo.
It was a very balanced sandwich, one in which the sum of the parts worked together well. I can't say if it was the best Torta I've ever had, but I really enjoyed it. I left feeling satisfied, not like I'd been weighed down by a ton of grease and saturated fat, which has it's own rightful place in (and around) my heart, but this was very pleasant.
Which meant that I had to bring the Missus along on my next trip. The Missus wasn't very hungry, and is a bit picky about the amount of cheese (minimal) and sour cream (none) on Her Mexican food. She decided on the Quesadilla de Flour de Calabasa (zucchini blossom quesadilla - $3.99), and requested it light on the cheese, and with no sour cream. I watched as the tortilla was again formed by hand. It was a simple, but delicious looking dish:
And it was a good idea to get this easy on the cheese...since it was mozzarella cheese. The Missus loved the Guacamole, and told me She could really taste every ingredient in the Quesadilla clearly.
This time I went for the Torta de Bistec Ranchero ($5.29):
Thin sliced beef (a la Carne Asada) browned, than simmered in a mild tomato based sauce. the flavor of the onions and garlic came through. And the beef was very tender. As you can see this was dressed a bit differently from my previous Torta:
No chredded lettuce this time, and the cheese was pretty much an afterthought and added nothing to the sandwich. Again the bolillo was light and airy. In fact, I enjoyed this more than the Torta Milanesa. It could be because the gentleman told me to try some of his "chili paste", which is not on the salsa bar. He gave us a small container of what I believe is a Chipotle based paste.
It was smokey with a nice slow burn.......
On my last visit, I was determined to try something different, and went with the Cemita de Pata ($7.99). Cemitas are a type of sandwich which differentiates itself from Tortas mainly by the type of roll used. It is a round sesame seed crusted roll. The cemita I had previously was toasted, but nice and fluffy. This one was toasted, and on the crumbly side. It was pretty big......
The roll was also fairly dry, I prefer the bolillos here. If you read the menu, and think this is beef shank...be aware.....this is gelatinous, tendon like material from cows feet.
It had been cooked low and slow in a very potent vinegar and citrus mixture, making it very puckery and sour. There was a good deal of bitterness going on as well. On this day, all the customers were Hispanic, and one of them took an interest in what I had ordered. when my Cemita arrived, he asked me what I ordered. when I informed him that it was the Cemita de Pata, he laughed and told me that he is from Puebla, where Cemitas originated. He loves his Cemitas, but even he won't eat this. He did tell me that, "this place makes good stuff." So I'll take his word for it.
To me, The Torta Factory is not the place to revive yourself with a greasebomb from an all day drinking binge, or to kill your hang-over with protein overload. It does a nice job with light and well prepared food. For the other stuff, perhaps you'll do best grabbing your California Burrito from one of those 'Berto places.
The Torta Factory
4595 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92115
Open Daily - 7am - 8pm