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There are a whole host of problems with people trying to classify tacos as sandwiches.
It’s not an epidemic, mind you. This happens occasionally when a strip mall has a tenant that sells sandwiches and has a clause in their contract saying the owner can’t rent to any other sandwich shops. Then a taco shop opens up in the same strip mall, gets all the business, the sandwich shop owner starts feeling salty and decides to sue. It’s ridiculous.
For one thing, tacos are clearly not sandwiches. And to say that a taco or a burrito is the Mexican culinary equivalent of a sandwich is to completely ignore the existence of tortas—aka Mexican sandwiches.
When I posted about visiting Super Tortas El Chavo, another restaurant owner DMed me a question: Do white people know about tortas?
My answer: I dunno.
I know about tortas, and I’m very white. But I also spend the part of my life that could be used seeking physical fitness or spiritual enlightenment to read about food, so maybe it’s a secret.
Well, now you know. In Mexico, tortas are sandwiches. Lots of other cultures use the word torta to mean different things, including omelets (Philippines), pies (Italy), and cakes (Spain). But, if you see it in Oklahoma, it mostly like means sandwiches.
It’s not uncommon to find tortas in taquerias, but for a local shop that specializes in them, you need only head down to Super Tortas El Chavo.
What a weird and wonderful restaurant. To walk inside is to put your eyes on neon mode, because it is as bright and colorful as a pride parade inside a Skittles factory.
The walls are decorated with pictures of celebrities I could not identify for a million dollars—turns out they’re the stars of “El Chavo,” a Mexican TV comedy about an orphan living in a slum...yeah, I said comedy. The eponymous El Chavo (“the kid”) is obsessed with ham tortas, which is how we ended up with a Mexican sandwich restaurant based on a popular Mexican sitcom from the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.
Oh, and there’s a parrot. Maybe on the show, I’m not sure, but definitely inside the restaurant. It’s in a cage. Don’t worry about it. I just don’t want you freaking out if you start hearing bird noises.
Once your eyes get used to the explosion of color, the server will bring you a small cup of brothy soup with pasta. It’s nice, especially if you’re very hungry, but I tend to sip at it a little—the portion sizes for what I’m about to get make soup kind of redundant.
I wouldn’t call the tacos enormous, but they’re bigger than most food truck tacos and still only $2. The al pastor taco was delightful, with big chunks of tender spiced pork, lovingly soaked in pineapple juice, with diced onions and cilantro on a homemade corn tortilla.
Sorry if you’re getting sick of hearing it, but the difference between a freshly made corn tortilla and one you buy at the grocery store is like choosing between sitting in a chair and being beaten with it. Technically chairs are involved in both, but only one is pleasant.
Much as I enjoyed the tacos, this is the only torta-focused restaurant I’ve found in OKC, so I figure we ought to dig into the torta menu.
My first choice is the Nortena torta ($9.99), which is filled with grilled jalapenos, avocado slices, cheese, and big pieces of juicy, fall-apart steak. There’s also lettuce, tomato, etc. But that’s just the accoutrement.
I don’t think $10 is too much for a sandwich, especially one this good. But when it arrives, you’ll understand why it’s actually a tremendous deal—this thing is HUGE. And full. And when you only finish half, because you’re just a normal human and not a competitive eater, you’ll have your next meal already waiting.
When I took my buddy Krystal there, she opted for the El Chavo ($9) which is a piled-high hot ham and cheese sandwich. The ham is griddled, which boosts the flavor. It’s a small touch, but it makes a big impact on the final product.
Again, it’s massive. They all are. You are either getting one sandwich to share or you’re getting two meals, minimum.
The Perrona ($9.99) is another monster, with two kinds of beef (chopped and sliced steak) with grilled chicken and cheese. It’s not fancy. It’s not going to change the way you live your life, unless you count making occasional trips to south OKC for sandwiches a big change. But what they are is tasty and comforting. This is the kind of meal that just lets your shoulders relax a bit, because these are designed to be just what you need and a lot of it.
You know how it’s my job to look for something weird on a menu and then order it? Okay, so I ate a Machete ($11.99).
Not the kind that sliced Dewey Cox’s brother in twain, setting off the greatest musical film of all time, but a really long flatbread taco. It looks like a blade and, watch out, it’s stuffed with two different taco fillings (of your choosing).
It’ll chop your hunger in half, that’s for sure. My only complaint, I suppose, is the quasi-flatbread-masa shell is kind of dry. It makes a stunning addition to your table, but for my money, I’d probably just get a bunch of tacos next time.
There’s a picture at the back of the menu of the owner holding a hamburger that is clearly meant as a threat. Not only is it $30, but it looks like you couldn’t eat it without doing serious harm to your organs as they’re pushed out of the way for this ungodly beefy science experiment gone wrong.
So I tried to order it. But they didn’t have the right bread for it, so instead I got three of their Hamburguesa Gigante ($11.99 each) to share with a bunch of my friends.
At Nic’s Grill, a burger with “cheese ‘n’ everything” means grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickle. At Super Tortas El Chavo, the “‘n’ everything” is a bit more involved.
Stop me when this gets weird:
Big hamburger patty
You didn’t stop me, so I just finished. Yeah. That was a massive and very weird burger. But also kind of amazing. Yeah, I don’t want hot dogs on my burgers every time, but this insane combination of flavors kept combining and re-combining with each bite. Sometimes you get ham and jalapeno on your burger. Sometimes it’s avocado and bacon. And those hot dog-pineapple bites are pretty weird, but then you get a different culinary collision the next bite and on and on.
Again, these are enormous. I shared one with Wampus Reynolds and it was more than enough food for the both of us. (He didn’t like that I tried to eat it “Lady & The Tramp” style, either.)
Super Tortas El Chavo is a trip, folks, but it’s a trip I want to take again. The tortas are wonderful, full stop. The service is friendly and the tacos and the variety of other dishes I rarely see elsewhere are quite good, too.
I don’t know what color you are, dear reader, and I don’t care one bit. Tortas transcend language, race, and creed. They are delicious, they are comforting, and now that you know what and where they are, I hope they transcend location, as well, because you need Super Tortas El Chavo in your life.
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