The sandwich is the American lunch staple. The torta is the Mexican equivalent: popular grab-and-go food, often eaten at soccer games.
When it comes to tortas in Sacramento, Taqueria Ciudad Nezahualcoyótl is a heavy hitter. Its tortas are notable for their tremendous, almost comical size. (One torta would easily satisfy two hungry diners.) Each sandwich is constructed out of a monstrous loaf of white bread and loaded up with tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, avocado, beans and mayonnaise before even getting to the meat. Among the standouts on the lengthy list of tortas is the Nezayork, made with pork, pineapple, pork leg and queso. The Cubana, with its rich, greasy combination of breaded steak, ham, sausage, pork leg, eggs, shredded cheese and white cheese, is the menu’s other obvious MVP. Vegetarian eaters can order the Suiza, a torta with “all kind of cheeses,” or try creating their own torta by ordering the Combinada, which allows for two ingredients of your choice. Pulled apart, each torta oozes cheese and oil between its impossibly fluffy buns. It’s a dieter’s pornography.
A charming (and borderline offensive) idiosyncrasy of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl is its tongue-in-cheek menu naming system. The potatoes, chicken and cheese torta is derisively called the Minnesota. (Apparently, the owners of Ciudad don’t believe you can find quality Mexican salchicha and jamon in fly-over territory.) Better yet is the quesadilla menu, on which all of the plates are named after “Las Divas” of Mexican pop culture. Some of these names would be known only to those with more than a passing awareness of the stars of Latin America. I had to look up La Tetanic (a Playboy model and, per Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, a pork skin quesadilla) and La Niurka (a Cuban singer, cabaret performer and now pork quesadilla). Some quesadillas needed no introduction, however; I was plenty familiar with La Shakira (shredded beef) and La Monica Lewinsky (potatoes with Mexican sausage, naturally).
So put down the second-rate fast-casual restaurant sandwich for your next lunch. Turns out you don’t need five different types of deli meat, pickle spears and a spiced mystery mayo to make a good sandwich. Instead, reach for the sandwich with grilled meat, beans, salsa and pickled carrots. It’s just as tasty and, frankly, just as American.
• Nezayork Torta ($9.75)
• Cubana Torta ($9.75)
• Huaraches ($7.50)
• La Tetanic ($7.25)
• Camerones al Mojo de Ajo ($12.75)
6035 Franklin Blvd.; (916) 393-7353