Bites Nearby lives up to its name and ventures out to neighboring La Mesa...
In La Mesa, the classic “Sandwich or Mexican food?” question has an easy answer: . A term coined in 1948, “torta” (derived from the Latin “tort,” meaning “cake”) is a Mexican sandwich—the best of two diet-destroying worlds—served on a fluffy French-style bread roll.
This veritable torta-eater’s paradise (hidden under a canopy of trees on the corner of Allison Avenue and Pine Street) has a low-key, relaxing vibe, both in its cool, tiled interior and its outdoor patio. Some 39 types of delicious, hearty tortas are available (in the $8 range), with flavor styles running the gamut Guadalajaran to Cuban, machaca to chile relleno.
Many choices are named after owner Miguel Rojas’ family members—such as Marlene’s BBQ Beef Torta, Bianca’s Chicken Torta, or Liz’s Veggie Torta. Then there’s Natalia’s Torta, named after Rojas’s daughter born the day the first La Torta Café opened, on Oct. 31, 1994.
Eventually Rojas—who takes credit for spurring the melted-sandwich craze long before Quiznos, and was dubbed the “King of Tortas” by Plate magazine—established six La Torta Café locations throughout San Diego.
Tough times led Rojas to sell them all in 2009, starting over with this single La Mesa spot. La Torta Café has a van for delivering platters, which like their in-house counterparts come with sides of hot potato rounds (essentially sun-shaped French fries), and a tangy chipotle sauce (Rojas’ original recipe). Nontorta selections include a light-textured chimichanga ($6) the size of a football.