In Los Angeles, taco trucks have become so commonplace, like graffiti on overpasses and the occasional hooker j-walking the street at 9 am. It’s hard to give it anymore attention than it already gets. But driving down on Adams Blvd, I noticed this one particular truck out the corner of my eye by the “R” Ranch Bodega market on Adams, just west of La Brea. Besides the usual tacos, burritos and quesadillas offered by most trucks, I was attracted by the words painted on this truck: tortas ahogadas. I asked my coworker RM, who’s also my human, Spanish-dictionary, what that meant… “drowned torta”. Drowned in what though? I had to find out.
I arrived at the nicely decked out truck, probably one of the cleanest, detailed trucks I’d ever seen. The owners are from Guadalajara and proclaim the torta ahogada as a true Guadalajaran dish. Before ordering the torta, I had to choose my meat. So I did a taco test first before indulging. Carnitas, suadero (brisket) and buche (pig stomach lining). Carnitas - moist, fried with a nice crunchy texture. Suadero - moist and beef. Buche - when does this meat ever taste bad? I went with the crunchy carnitas. The man next to me was waiting for his torta ahogada and I asked him what he thought of the drowned sandwich for reassurance. He gave me two thumbs up and a smile, bearing a missing tooth. Nice. And then his came out first…
What I was expecting was a Mexican take on a french dip. After all, a torta is somewhat of a sandwich with your choice of meat. But this was just overdone and ludicrous. Si, por favor. *Note the Niagra Falls of Hot Sauce.
I watched the man dive into the sandwich like a fisherman bringing in his catch out of the water. He went in and took a huge bite off the end. Meat fell out, sauce dripped onto the sidewalk and the man wore an orange smile. He was into it, quietly muttering his satisfaction.
Finally, mine came out and I told them to ease on the hot sauce because I didn’t want to be in any pain. They gave me a milder sauce and a little sauce cup filled with the hot stuff the other guy got. I hesitated first… unfamiliar with this new beast and as to how I would initiate my first bite. I grabbed the torta quickly because I didn’t want the sauce to destroy the bread and like a basking shark, unhinged my teeth on this torta. First, the taste of soggy bread, second the mushy taste of refried beans and then finally, the crunchy texture of the carnitas. It took me a few bites to register the taste. I could see the cook thru the window looking at me. The man next to me, who was almost done with his, looked at me too. They wanted my reaction. And you know what… I liked it. It was like doing something illegal, with all the guilt and sleepless nights. I must have used a good twenty napkins to hide the bloody evidence. It was in fact, a beautiful disaster. *Note: I also only used like 4 pours of the hot sauce and my stomach was warm for a good 4 hours.
Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara Truck
5212 W. Adams Blvd (on Alsace Avenue)
Los Angeles, 90016