Chicken Torta — Eagle Rock Music Festival, Los Angeles

Street fairs and similar festivals are an interesting time for cuisine, particularly in Los Angeles, where the food truck and the street vendor are at the same time a ubiquitous staple and a hipsterish fad. The recent Eagle Rock Music Festival had the featured food trucks you would expect, as well as the open restaurants and scattered food booths along a jam-packed Colorado Boulevard, but also featured an interesting “food court” down a side street. It was at this food court that I saw a large banner over a crowded stall that proclaimed “SUPER TORTAS.” Whether this was a descriptor of the product, a hyperbolic boast, or simply the name of the proprietary enterprise, I could not ascertain. I was merely certain that I would be ordering a torta.

Following a prolonged and too-complicated ordering process, I was presented with a chicken torta and a pork-and-cheese pupusa. Since this is not “On Pupusas,” I shall restrict my commentary to the former.

As I carried my torta the few blocks home, to enjoy my repaste in comfort at the end of a very long day, I did not have high hopes for the sandwich. Certainly I have an ideal against which all future tortas will be measured, which does a grave disservice to both myself and the unfortunate new torta. The chicken torta from the Music Festival featured minced and grilled chicken, lettuce, and tomato. The grilled roll was given a healthy coat of what appeared to be mayonnaise, and a liberal ladle of salsa was applied to the sandwich just before assembly was completed atop the grill.

To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. By all rights, this sandwich should not have been as good as it was. The chicken was sparse and of low quality. The salsa and grease had soaked through the bottom half of the roll, making it something just this side of “a sloppy mess.” And yet…this torta was absolutely delicious. The marriage of the salsa, mayonnaise, and chicken was approaching sublime. It had far more kick than you would expect from this sandwich, and yet the heat and spice was never overpowering. The bread was of a much higher quality than I expected, and the torta absolutely hit the spot with this weary traveler. My only regret lies in not being able to divine the name of this establishment, so that I may visit their truck or storefront again in the future. Alas.