Tortas at El Mariachi

el_mariachi_torta_closeup.jpg

By Deanna Fox

You don't need to go south of the border for a lunchtime taste of Mexico. You just need to go a little south of Central Avenue.

Tortas are a traditional Mexican sandwich often sold on the street during lunch. Using whatever ingredients are on hand, tortas act as a quick, filling lunch that comes cheap, is easy to eat, and offers utility that is only rivaled by flavor.

The tortas -- in various interpretations -- at El Mariachi in Albany don't disappoint when it comes to a fast, hearty lunch that bring a hit of flavor to an otherwise drab, wintery workday.

The tortas at El Mariachi come in five flavors:

+ carne enchilada (marinated pork),
+ pollo (chicken),
+ papas y chorizo (potato and sausage)
+ aguacate (avocado),
+ and carne azada (steak).

Each will run you $5.95, and come slathered with beans, mayonnaise, avocado, tomato, onion, and lettuce. The El Mariachi website indicates that jalapeno is served on the sandwich, but on my recent visit the pickled jalapeno was served on the side (like a Mexican version of a Jewish deli offering).

el_mariachi_three_tortas.jpg

I opted to try the pork, steak, and chorizo sandwiches. The pork was my favorite, and the flavors of the marinated meat really shined among the other ingredients. The steak of the carne azada torta was cooked well, but the cut of meat (flank or skirt, most likely) made it hard to get a consistent bite of sandwich eat time. I ended up eating it with a knife and fork, which seems counter the nature of the thing. Chorizo and potato, when mashed together and layered on top of beans, created a nice texture that made eating the torta a breeze. To me, the chorizo was a little bit mild -- I was expecting something more pungent and spicy -- but the combo of ingredients is a classic pairing.

The bread was really interesting (the waitress said the bread is brought in by a Mexican import distributor). The telera is like a Mexican version of baguette, and the origin of the bread includes French influence. (In that sense it shares something with the bread of another classic sandwich, the banh mi.) It's a crusty roll with airy crumb that sops up meat juice and creates little pockets of mayonnaise bubbles. You'll find a quarter-loaf's worth of crumbs in your lap after you eat the torta.

The sandwiches would have been undoubtedly better if the pickled jalapeno was sliced and included on the sandwich. The acid pucker brought from the pickled pepper brightened the entire torta, which sometimes felt a bit heavy with layers of bean, meat, and fat (avocado and mayo). Sure, I could have balanced a bit of sandwich with a bite of jalapeno, alternating between the two, but it seems so easy to just add it to the sandwich, and would have saved the meal from feeling a little underseasoned.

el mariachi washington ave albany

The tortas are traditionally a lunch food in Mexico. And at the Washington Ave El Mariachi they are only available during midday.

If you find yourself in downtown Albany around lunch, consider a torta. It's quick, it's filling, and true to its roots, it won't break the bank. A lunchtime trip over to El Mariachi is a good excuse to get away from your desk and take in some delicious food and a prandial stroll around noon.

By the way: El Marachi has two locations in close proximity in the Center Square/Hudson/Park neighborhood -- the Washington Ave location and the spot on the corner of Hamilton Street and South Swan. The Hamilton location was damaged by fire a year ago and has been closed for renovation ever since. But, during a quick peek through the windows last week, it looked like it was close to being completed, and the restaurant's website says it will be re-opening soon.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
+ Breakfast Pizza at Bella Napoli
+ Paska bread from Schuyler Bakery
+ Lunch buffet at First Choice Caribbean
+ The burger at 15 Church

Find It

El Mariachi
144 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12210

Comments

Does anyone in the area do a solid torta ahogada? I've been on the hunt for some of that spicy deliciousness to no avail... any leads?

Unless they've changed policy in the last year or so, you can totally order a torta off-menu for dinner. I've done so in the past as (IMHO) it's their signature dish.

Check out the tortas at Mexican Market, 654 Central Ave, too. Not to be missed.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Today's moment of spring

One of the delightful things about spring is the way you walk past a place one day and it's all greige and dormant and the... (more)

History walking tour through Pine Hills

This should be fun and interesting: Akum Norder will be leading a history walking tour through Pine Hills May 9. Blurbage: Join Akum Norder, author... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

The weekend is around the corner, and spring is making an effort -- so we're good. How about you? We've got your list of stuff... (more)

"Race, Place, Power & Privilege" at Albany Roundtable

This looks interesting: The Albany Roundtable's annual meeting on May 23 at the Albany Institute will feature a talk by urban planner Daniel D'Oca titled... (more)

"I am the lonely fainting goat in the Binghamton Zoo."

Over at McSweeney's, Talia Lavin extends Andrew Cuomo's recent I'm-an-undocumented-person campaign oratory. A clip: "I was recently bat mitzvahed. I look great in a hijab.... (more)

Recent Comments

I'm not from the Cap Region originally, so these are the things that have impressed me and friends who visit. Walk them through the plaza after sunset. Walking past on a clear night, my breath sometimes catches a bit when I see the striking, unusual view. ...

Must-do Albany/Troy activities for new arrivals to the Capital Region?

...has 11 comments, most recently from AlbanyTransplant

Forever wild: The advocacy of Verplanck Colvin

...has 4 comments, most recently from Ed

"I am the lonely fainting goat in the Binghamton Zoo."

...has 1 comment, most recently from Elisabeth

Cars and quality of life

...has 1 comment, most recently from Lu

The plan to fix a problem in Albany that's been a century in the making -- and the concerns about that fix

...has 10 comments, most recently from BethAM