Tortas are objectively one of the best foods to eat during a global pandemic. Most of them come from Seattle’s excellent lineup of taco trucks (where you have minimal interaction with people), they are infinitely customizable with choices like carnitas, carne asada, and breaded chicken milanesa, and, like any sandwich worth your time, have enough meat and bread that you’ll want to go to bed right after you eat one.
We can say this with confidence: the torta is the best type of sandwich that exists. Feel free to send us angry emails to disagree, but not until you try these six excellent tortas in Seattle, first.
Your order: Birria torta
If there was ever an episode where Ms. Frizzle resigned as a teacher and turned The Magic School Bus into a taco truck, we’re pretty sure it would look something like Taqueria El Asadero. They operate out of an old bus on Rainier near Columbia City, always have a line of people during lunch hour, and serve one hell of a torta on a toasted roll. If you’re planning to eat right away, you should absolutely order yours with the falling-apart birria - which could be the star of an episode where Ms. Frizzle explains the science behind how the juicy meat dissolves toasted bread. However, go for carnitas (which has excellent crispy skin) if you’re driving back home and/or have enough self-control to not devour this thing immediately.
Your order: Carnitas torta
Another taco truck on Rainier, Taqueria Sotelo offers one the best deals in town: four tacos for $6. This isn’t the taco guide, though, and their tortas are good enough to make you completely forget about that deal. The best thing about this sandwich, besides the tender carnitas and all the smashed avocado, is the fact that all three salsas included (a mild green, spicy red, and even spicier habanero) are so good that they’ll make you wish you could buy the stuff by the bucket.
Your order: Torta Diabla Shrimp
As much as we could order carnitas for every torta and be perfectly content, it’s important to branch out and try new things. Like the Diabla Shrimp Torta from the new Sazon D’La Baja location in Queen Anne. Filled with tangy, spicy shrimp, bacon, cheese, avocado, tomato, greens, and a side of grilled leeks and jalepeños, this is hands-down the messiest and most expensive ($14) torta on this list. But just like when you randomly start a new show instead of rewatching of The Office for the billionth time, the Torta Diabla Shrimp is here to remind you that new things are fun, exciting, and most times involve shrimp.
Your order: Barbacoa torta
Everybody talks about sliced bread like it’s humanity’s greatest invention. Well, we want to talk to the person who decided we should grill our sliced bread, and give them the Nobel Peace Prize. Without them, we would never get to try the torta from Muy Macho Grill. This former restaurant-turned-taco-truck in South Park perfectly grills their crusty, spongy roll, and fills it with your choice of meat, jalapeños, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes. Get it with barbacoa, and be glad we don’t have to live in a world where grill marks on bread don’t exist.
Your order: Super Torta with al pastor
How many times has a sandwich made you pause and think, “how in the good Lord’s name do I eat this thing?” This is the question that all great sandwiches make us ask ourselves, and the “Super Torta” from the El Taco Loco truck in Ballard has us wondering exactly that. It measures half the length of our arm (we have a long wingspan) and comes on a griddled roll stuffed with juicy al pastor, lettuce, jalapeños, and a mix of spicy salsa and mayo that create a delicious hybrid sauce. Sure, this torta costs $11, but can probably feed you for three meals.
Your order: Cemitas milanesa de pollo or Cemitas carne asada
While we have love for all tortas, we have a special admiration for the cemita. As the older, wiser cousin of the torta, the cemita has a super crusty roll with sesame seeds that’s made with egg. And the rolls they use at Cemitas Poblanos in White Center (located in a strip mall off 509) somehow have the perfect ratio of crunchy outer layer to soft, chewy middle. While we have a hard time picking a favorite between the carne asada and milanesa de pollo, they’re both stuffed with thin, rectangular blocks of queso fresco, pickled jalapeños, and what seems like one whole avocado per sandwich. What gives the carne asada an edge, though, are the carrots and onions stewed in beef fat, which put to shame any vegetables from a slow cooker pot roast.