Mexican Eats: Puebla Mini Market, the Häagen Dazs of Tortas

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Like a grand marquee announcing the latest blockbuster, the multicolored sign "TORTAS" of Puebla Mini Market can be read two blocks away. Puebla Mini Market is an orderly shop in Sunset Park: part bodega, part torta cart, but first and foremost a juice stand. There are piles of oranges and shiny stainless steel juicers on the counter. "Feel the fruitness" of the housemade juices, says the menu, which lists a long catalogue to combat different ailments. The pineapple-papaya juice smoothes over cellulite; the blend of beet, celery, and pineapple is "para la depresion." It's a twenty-first century distillation of the traditional cuisine built on desert fruits and garden offerings: sweet ruby beets, cactus fruits, and heart-shaped yellow mangos.

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Most customers shoot past the juice stand and beeline for the back, where the famous double-sided plancha (basically a panini press) squashes overloaded sandwiches into tight, well-toasted packages. The tacos ($3), tacos dorados ($5), ham and cheese quesadillas called sincronizadas ($7) are just a formality—everyone comes for the tortas ($6.99-$8).

This unique sandwich shop was created by Don Pepe, the creator of thirty-three (and counting) styles of torta, which you can peruse from a well-lit photographed line-up overhead. All the tortas start with slices of avocado, tomato, onion, and a spread of beans. Then the more elaborate ingredients, like pineapple, eggs, a plethora of meats, and whole deep-fried cheese-stuffed chiles, are carefully piled on top.

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Does the Nortena, a torta with carne asada, ham, head cheese, and string cheese strike your fancy? Or is the Especial Puebla, with its fried chicken cutlet, ham, eggs, and queso fresco more your style? The house torta goes by the name of Estilo Puebla Mini Market; it piles on not just tinga (spicy shredded chicken), but beef stew as well. It's not to be confused with the Torta de la Casa, with its marinated carne enchilada (spicy pork), roast pork, ham, bacon, and cheese. Is there a juice to combat torta coma? No, just shelves stocked with bulk Mexican candy.

Puebla Mini Market

39-08 5th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11232 (map)
718-435-3326

About the author: Scarlett Lindeman is a cook, food writer, and recipe editor of Diner Journal, a food/arts quarterly. E-mail her at scarlett.lindeman@gmail.com.

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