The Sandwich: The Torta Ahogada
Where: El Chucho, 3313 11th St. NW
Bread: 10-inch sandwich roll
Stuffings: Ground pork, black beans, red onion, avocado, and chihuahua cheese, topped with arbol chile sauce.
Sloppiness Level (1 to 5): 5. The sandwich comes with plastic gloves, which pretty much says it all. This is a meal you will end up wearing.
Pros: The black beans bring an unexpected earthiness to the otherwise overwhelming combination of salty pork and sweet tomato.
Cons: The arbol chile sauce could be spicier, considering arbol chilies are similar to cayenne pepper in heat and flavor. While it tasted fine, it was more like someone had poured chili on top of the sandwich than amplified it with a great sauce. Sometimes messy isn’t better.
How It Holds Up the Next Day: Surprisingly well, even if it ceases to be a sandwich once the bread turns to mush. But the flavors melded together nicely, highlighting the pork’s smokiness.
Overall Score (1 to 5): 4. Just attempting to eat this enormous sandwich attracts fellow diners’ attention, especially when El Chucho’s tacos aren’t much bigger than sand dollars. But the dish could use an extra dose of hot sauce to amp it up and more onion to cut the saltiness. This street food in a sit-down setting isn’t an exact replica of the traditional tortas ahogadas served in Guadalajara, though it’s worth staining a T-shirt for nonetheless.
Photo by Caroline Jones