I never mind driving for good food. Between my wife and I--from Mexico City and Chicago respectively, there is seldom traffic in Denver that we can rightly call traffic (very much part of the reason we love it here), so in one day it would not be rare to find us lunching on North Federal then dining down in Southeast Aurora. That being said, if I don't have to spend time in a car I'd rather not, so when I heard that Torta Grill opened up just 18 short blocks from our state's capitol on Colfax and Williams, I headed over as soon as I could.
As much as I have learned to like the Denver strip mall (for its seemingly limitless number of cheap, culturally diverse eats) I love that Torta Grill is on the curb-- and what's more, on the curb of Colfax next to a liquor store and just a few steps down from the lovely Squire Lounge. It is on the corner with the alley between Williams and High that you will find Torta Grill in a small space sporting five stools inside, and a four-seat plastic table out on the sidewalk. It has little sliding windows that open from the register to the street as well, so that food and cash can be exchanged right from the pavement.
While many tortas in Mexico City are made on carts, the more permanent vendors might operate from a shop not unlike Torta Grill. And without a doubt tortas are best enjoyed sitting on plastic chairs or standing on a busy street with throngs of people walking by. In this sense Torta Grill has chosen the perfect location.
Yes, it seems like a well-conceived plan by the husband and wife team who have opened Torta Grill. The former, Steve, or as he calls himself, "El Guero Tortero", can be found working the line; proudly flipping your torta meats. His wife, Ardeni, a Mexico City native, was also there that day to ring up our order then pass it out the window with a big smile.
My wife ordered the Jose, which in addition to all the torta basics (avocado, mayo, beans, onion, tomato, etc.) came layered with ham, chorizo, eggs and cheese.
That's a fine-looking torta
It was an excellent torta made with fresh ingredients all around. Even the beans--smeared across the bottom loaf of bread--stood out. They were creamy and flavorful; and when a seemingly background ingredient stands out, it makes me think that much care and thought has gone into the preparation of not only the sandwich, but the entire restaurant. I could be wrong (I often am), but by the taste of those beans it also seems like the Guero Tortero is not afraid to make use of the lard. Well done.
Inside La Jose
The Arturo is what I ordered: pork, ham, eggs and cheese. It was exactly as delicious as it looks in the photo below, and note those beautiful black beans peeping out on the bottom layer. In my carefree bachelor days that found me more than once at the Squire Lounge just down the street, oh how I wish this sandwich was there as I stumbled home.
Of course what would a torta shop be without aguas frescas? The question is mostly rhetorical, but for those not familiar with a typical torta-shop set-up, the answer is that it would be hard to even consider that a torteria in a place like Mexico City. The fact is that greasy tortas and fresh-made fruit and vegetable drinks are the yin and yang of Mexico City street food. There are very few things that are likely as unhealthy as bread slathered in butter stuffed with several kinds of greasy, grilled meats, cheese, mayo and all the other sorts of calorie-laden, cholesterol-raising fillings. Therefore it makes sense that a healthy, freshly made jugo like the one I had at Torta Grill-- made with strawberries, apple, pineapple, orange and lemon--are the perfect companion to the torta.
Sipping a giant freshly made jugo after downing a torta is like waking up early to go to the gym after eating a big meal the night before-- but without the waking up early or going to the gym. What could be better than that?
Where does Las Tortas stand among the torta greats of Denver? It is early still, but I was most definitely impressed with what I had, and unless something changes (I'll let you know if it does), it will be on the top of my torta rotation from here on out. Do yourself a favor and get there.
The Torta Grill is calling your name. You can call them at 720.420.0964 for delivery or just go pay a visit at 1818 E. Colfax.