Most Americans think tortilla when they talk about hand-held Mexican meals.
But Mexicans also love bread-wrapped tortas, and they're suddenly on the rise, from the taquerias of South Philly to the newest hot lunch ticket on Penn's campus.
Of course, Tortas Frontera is owned by Rick Bayless, the Chicago chef-author-entrepreneur who has spent his career introducing authentic Mexican flavors Stateside.
And he has gone to great lengths to find the perfect torta rolls from a bakery in Queens for his first East Coast location, this one located in the ARCH student center where it's run with campus dining service Bon Appetit. Pressed to order, the rolls are crunchy outside but soft and airy inside.
The choriqueso blend of cuminy, guajillo-spiced chorizo made from local Country Time Farm pork and Chihuahua cheese was our favorite, followed by the slow-cooked pork pibil with pickled red onions. The quick-serve concept, which also makes excellent just-mashed guac, isn't perfect - the rice in our cazuela bowl was undercooked.
But fresh-made, locally sourced, and authentic inspirations are almost revolutionary in a college context, where Taco Bell and Chipotle are the closest chain competitors. And, of course, those two are all about the tortilla.
- Craig LaBan