I don’t do drugs anymore, but I will eat a torta to alter my state of consciousness. In fact, this is an experience best done with friends at Tacos El Nevado, the hole-in-the-wall Mexican spot down the glorious ethnic corridor that is Central Avenue. Best known for its tacos — authentic, inexpensive and the epitome of simple cuisine done right — Tacos El Nevado is a best kept dining secret in Charlotte. Though, if you want to get lifted, the torta cubana ($8.50) is your ticket.
The torta is a sandwich with heft, the submarine to end all submarines, a Latin Lusitania. In Mexico, it is the sandwich and a great source of pride throughout the country. Across the different regions of Mexico, you will find tortas of every iteration filled with a multitude of ingredients, dunked in spicy salsas, covered in cheese and stacked with condiments.
The basic structure of the torta begins with the bolillo, a football-shaped sandwich loaf, soft on the inside with a slight chew to the outside. As with the torta itself, the bolillo varies from region to region. Sometimes a slightly more round and baguette-like roll called a telera is used instead.
Next, the bolillo is stuffed silly with meat and cheese; then it is given a name. At Tacos El Nevado, the one you want is the Torta de Cubana, the one with all of the things.
The torta arrives in its own personal foil packaging, about the size of a newborn baby. The bolillo is spread with a generous helping of refried black beans and then stacked with a thick slice of ham, carne asada, hot dogs grilled a la plancha split lengthwise and then layered with pickled jalapenos, lettuce, avocado, tomato and crema. The opposite half of the bolillo bears the final ingredient, crisped chorizo, spicy and fatty with a layer of crimson oil soaked into the pillowy interior of the bread. The first time I ate the torta cubana, my companion and I passed it between us like a joint, taking two bites and letting the other one hit it until we finished. One torta cubana, and you’ll be addicted too.
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