Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tortas en el Norte: Teleras of Thornton

Friday afternoon is no time to be going to the dentist, but I had been putting off my oral hygiene for far too long. The reality is that while my pearly whites are probably better described as "off-pearly-white", my teeth-- through no fault of my own--are generally healthy. In fact on this fine afternoon I was scheduled to have only my third filling ever, something that I am rather proud of considering my relatively advanced age-- but something that also leaves me very ill-prepared for my infrequent dental visits.

After what seemed like hours squirming in the dental chair, mouth packed with gauze, traumatized by the high-pitched whirring of the drill and listening to my dentist wax on to his assistant about, among other things, his intense loathing of pine nuts (who hates pine nuts this much and why is he jamming a drill down my throat?), he very causally informed me that I would not be able to eat for at least two hours.

Two hours? It was 5:30 pm when I was unshackled from the chair. I had essentially skipped lunch, planning the whole day to gorge my gluttonous appetite at a new torta spot in our fair and kind-of-far-away neighbor up north, Thornton.

One hour and fifty-five arduous minutes later my wife and I were pulling into the parking lot of Teleras Deli Mexicana on 88th and Washington in the Southwest corner of the Rancho Liborio supermercado lot. We had been here a few weeks earlier just after Teleras opened its doors and I was impressed with my torta D.F.: strips of fried steak, chopped carnitas and a fat slice of ham. It was a solid, well-built torta with a ton of flavor.


Teleras Deli Mexicana is around thanks to the passion and hard work of its owner and proprietor JuanCarlos and his family. A native of Mexico, JuanCarlos has always dreamed of opening a place that could serve his take on this Mexican classic, and he has poured countless hours into the place building everything from the functional sneeze guard to the artful wall-hangings.


I was hungry enough when we arrived that I might have dared order what is Teleras' largest creation: La Mamalona. A step up from the Cubana, the Mamalona simply has "TODO", or that is, everything.  You may think I'm exaggerating again, but there it is on the bottom of the chalkboard menu (of which my picture did not come out so well). For double the price of a standard torta, you can enjoy every single food item in this restaurant stuffed and stacked between two slices of buttered and grilled bread. Not a bad deal really. That is, until you eat it and try to walk out the door. This is the kind of sandwich left for TV personalities, hell-bent on making us gawk at their gluttony. When they keel over from a massive coronary infarction, there's plenty more lining up behind them to take their place. Me? I've got a loving wife at home and already endanger my lipid-levels and arterial passageways enough with my food-adventures without daring to eat this thing. Still, I would tune in if it ever makes it on one of those shows.

What I did have in mind for this visit was la Torta Poblana, which features chunks of chicken bathed in a house-made mole. It was absolutely delicious.


It turns out that another side effect of minor dental surgery is a numb mouth. Never mind that it made me sound like a creepy drunk-- that is, as they say, par for the course (which I believe is golf-speak for you must be drunk to enjoy golf). What I did mind was that it makes consuming a sloppy torta de mole even sloppier. That was a minor setback, however. I took big, deliberate bites, sloshing them over to my left cheek to avoid repeatedly biting my right one. It did make me slow down a bit, and in doing so I savored each bite of this wonderful, layered mole.

The toasty pan telera sopped up the mole perfectly, and the fresh tomato, onion and avocado were a bright splash of cool contrast to the dark and rich sauce. The simple queso fresco added some of that "torta" feel without stealing the show like gobs of melted cheese would have. This is in many ways a perfect sandwich. This is not the dental drugs talking: I loved this sandwich.


There are of course other things at Teleras. My wife has ordered elote a couple times. The first time she tried it "en vaso", which means it comes in a cup with the traditional generous portions of mayo, butter, grated queso and powdered chile (piquin). The first batch tasted canned (which has since changed), so my wife tried the elote on the cob the second time around. This has the same basic ingredients only they are lathered on a roasted ear of corn. This indoor version of a traditional Mexican street food was good, but something was still not quite there for us-- I think the corn itself could have been better.


The other tortas we tried were very good as well. The ingredients are fresh and laid on thick. The aguas frescas are good as well. The strawberry was especially refreshing post-dental appointment, and $3 for a huge Styrofoam cup full of freshly blended berries is a screaming deal. Teleras is good, there is no doubt about it.

Thornton, your torteros have arrived, I hope you go take advantage. Denver, I know that leaving our familiar confines can be a little daunting at times, but it is well worth your while to get up the hill and eat this torta poblana and sample the rest of their solid menu. I wish Teleras the best as it sets out on the journey as a new restaurant. I hope it's there the next time I need a fix of that mole.

TELERAS Mexican Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

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