Torta time could be anytime! The versatile Mexican sandwich works in all weathers, and especially makes sense for weeks like this—where Portlanders find themselves trudging through slushy sidewalks and leaping over mounds of snow.
If there was ever a time to "bread-up" and fill your bod with the necessary energy for the weather ahead, this seems like it. I've been very lucky in the torta department lately, so please allow me to recommend two impressive Portland tortas worth your time, dollar, and devotion.
This torta came into my life because I wanted to use the Killingsworth Station Food Cart Pod's bathroom, and didn't want to be a jerk who doesn't buy anything. I tell ya, not being a jerk really leads to some rewards in life: like discovering the Tehuana Oaxacan Cuisine food cart and all their delicious offerings.
First thing you may notice about the Tehuana Torta is that it's HUGE—in most cases larger than the face trying to consume it. Tehuana serves it up cut into two halves, presumably to help alleviate face-to-torta insecurities.
Despite appearances, the torta is surmountable. A good amount of the sandwich is tangy cabbage slaw, served with a significant amount of avocado, Oaxacan cheese, tomato, onion, and your choice of protein—I went pastor and would recommend that juicy goodness again. Chowing down was a sloppy experience, so I'm glad I ate it in the safety of my home—away from the taunting eyes of all my Junior High bullies, who really should stop following me around at this point, since I'm in my 30s!
But if you aren't being followed by a small army of snide, eternal children, the Killingsworth Station Food Cart pod presents a delightful place to dine, with plenty of covered, distanced picnic tables and a couple fire pits—one in the front and one in the back.
Tehuana Oaxacan Cuisine, 1341 N Killingsworth, (360) 721-3457, facebook.com/tehuanapdx/
Over the summer shut-down, Republica PDX's chef, Lauro Romero, ran pop-ups around town—eventually becoming a regular face at La Perlita, the much-beloved Reforma Roasters-run coffee counter in the Ecotrust Building. So when Laughing Planet moved out of the cafe next door, Romero seized the opportunity to (along with Reforma's Angel Medina and baker Olivia Bartruff) move in and give his family's Hidalgo-area recipes more space and audience.
Like the name suggests, there's not one single voice to Republica PDX. I'm a fan of their food, but you might just as easily come to love the cafe for its curation of Mexican wines, or for Bartruff's ever-changing selection of pastries.
The cafe opened in November, and it's already one of my favorite places to eat in the Pearl District. On nicer days, they're able to open the cafe doors to an outdoor patio and take advantage of the overgrown beauty of the Ecotrust Building's courtyard.
But about that torta: Republica PDX's Cochinita Torta presents a generous helping of avocado atop a rave-worthy guisado of slow-cooked marinated pork and black beans. There's house-pickled habanero onions in there—which solidified my eternal devotion—and the torta's buttered telera bread is grilled, holding the contents in a solid state. This is a deeply stable sandwich that will keep your dignity firm. Vegetarians may want to note an intriguing mushroom adobado option, with peanut-based salsa. Republica PDX also has a number of mouth-watering family meals available to-go in the evening, including one just called "Guest at a Mexican Household" where the description is "we'll make sure we feed you right."
Republica PDX, 721 NW 9th Ave #175, (541) 900-5836, republicapdx.square.site/