A True Taste of Guadalajara in San Diego
December 7, 2017
Whoever says that Guadalajara is the only place where you can have a real torta ahogada, a traditional mexican sandwich bathed in salsa, must not know that they also make the real deal in Chula Vista.
Alongside her nephews and husband, Karina Reed runs Tortas Ahogadas El Gallito, where you can have a true torta ahogada like the ones in Guadalajara without having to jump on a plane.
A torta ahogada consists of a traditional, crunchy mexican roll which is stuffed with carnitas and is then soaked with a salsa madre from tomatoes and chili peppers.
“This torta is a classic dish from Guadalajara,” said Reed, who is a Guadalajara native. “In our family we had always looked for Mexican food from Guadalajara, like tortas ahogadas, and we did not find any, so my husband and I decided to go into the torta business.”
Since the idea of making tortas came about, Reed began to do market research into the local food scene to determine demand in the area. She even went as far as finding the right suppliers for the right ingredients, especially the bread, so that her tortas can be just like the ones from Guadalajara.
“I said that I would not open a torta place until I found the perfect roll, like the ones in Guadalajara,” Reed stated. “As a matter of fact, many times when people have tried our tortas they tell us that the taste reminds them of Mexico.”
Although the traditional torta ahogada is the main attraction at El Gallito, at this etery they also prepare a version of the dish only real Guadalajara natives will know.
“The torta gemma is a recipe by Mr. Alvarez Villalobos, who was a close friend of my dad, who in Guadalajara invented a special sauce for his own tortas. Mr. Alvarez Villalobos passed the recipe on to my dad and he passed it on to me, I then gave it my special touch,” Reed stated. “The torta gemma is very famous in Guadalajara and we have it here, I am sure that we are the only ones in the United States with this recipe.”
A trta gemma follows the same basic concept as the torta ahogada, but is instead bathed in a chipotle cream instead of the traditional tomato salsa.
The menu at El Gallito also features tostadas topped with carnitas. With a menu limited to three items, this business is focused on quality over quantity.
“We focus on what we know how to make well and what we have always liked to eat; those dishes are our strengths and we make them with a lot of love and with our special homestyle touch,” declared Reed.
Tortas Ahogadas El Gallito is run out of a food truck and is currently located on the parking of the Chula Vista Toys R Us store (1008 Industrial Blvd.), although there are plans to move to a permanent storefront in the coming months.
“We found a place on Broadway and we are preparing to move,” said Carlos Sanchez, a nephew of Reed who tends the business. “Wherever we’ll be, we always want to provide great customer service so that customers leave satisfied.”