It's a dilemma every Capitol Hill stomach eventually faces: Torta pangs, aka regular hunger pangs that can only be slaked with a messy, juicy, meaty Mexican sandwich. Fortunately, we are blessed with at least three decent torta lunch spots. But the question is: Which is the most delicious, affordable, on-the-go edible torta in town within two blocks of where I now sit on my ass, typing???
The Stranger investigates.
From left: Rancho Bravo, Poquitos (x2), and Marination Station
1) RANCHO BRAVO CHICKEN MOLE TORTA with lettuce shreds and tomato chunks. $4.75
Eli sez: "This is the torta I would most want to eat on the run. It's generously spiced and sauced, but—mercifully—the bun is soft enough on the inside that it soaks in all the juicy deliciousness, plus it's hard enough on the outside that you can grab hold with confidence. I feel like I could flee a robbery scene with this thing, eat it while the cops are chasing me, and then duck into a staff meeting with nothing smeared on my face and an alibi in the making."
I sez: "This tastes like good, drunken street food and it's priced like street food. Perfect for those times I have to drink just to get through the work day."
Goldy sez: "I'm a sucker for a good value, and on this count Bravo wins hands down. It's nothing special, but perfectly adequate, and at $4.75 you could buy two tortas from Bravo for the price of one from Poquitos. Such a deal!"
2) POQUITOS AHOGADA TORTA (pictured top w/o red chili sauce), the grandaddy of all Americanized tortas—the torta all other tortas aspire to be: Tender carnitas with smokey chipotle mayo, pickled onions, and cilantro. $9.95
Eli sez: "By far the best of the bunch. The pork is ready to melt for you. The sauce is back from its recent forays into tomato soup land, and now hot and tangy as ever. And it comes with chips. (Chips!) Just make sure you're sitting down for this one, with an entire roll of paper towels at the ready."
I sez: "I wanna know what love is/I want you to show me/I wanna feel what love is/I know you can show me/Aaaah woah-oh-ooh"
Goldy sez: "I'm also sucker for good, crusty bread, and the tortas from Poquitos didn't disappoint, but they also made for a messy sandwich that can't easily be eaten with one hand. Tasty and filling, but at $9.95 it's more than I want to regularly pay for lunch on a reporter's salary."
3) POQUITOS TORTA SPECIAL, with pit-roasted pork, fried garlic aoli, and some other shit, $9.95ish
Eli sez: "Not as special as a special should be, especially—especially!—when compared to its sauce-soaked cousin. But if you like your torta with a little less muss and fuss, and love the charry delight of pit roast, you should be all about this."
I sez: "Meh. Too chewy."
Goldy sez: "I liked the meat on the Poquitos special better, but the sauce on the Yabbadabbdo made for a more savory experience."
4) MARINATION STATION SPICY PORT TORTA—a Korean-Hawaiian take on the traditional Mexican sandwich with slaw, house-made pickled peppers and onions, guacamole, and a homemade nunya sauce. $7.50
Eli sez: "Awesomely happy-making, with its fusion ways and perfect slaw. Somehow greasier than the rest, though. Maybe the mayonnaise in the slaw is melting? Get a scientist on this, quick."
I sez: "Delicious but too greasy. I couldn't eat a whole one of these myself without shitting for days."
Goldy sez: "The Marination Station torta was the least authentic, the most difficult to eat, and to my tastes the best of the lot. I love the contrast of the tangy slaw with the spicy meat. At $7.50, it's probably worth the upgrade from Bravo."