Sunday, May 16, 2010

Conquering Cook's Tortas

This post has been in the works since May 21, 2009, the first time I brought a camera to Cook's Tortas. After many visits with both my DSLR and little pink point-and-shoot over the course of a year, I still haven't tried everything, but I've made a valiant effort.
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Cook's Tortas is an unassuming little mint-green-roofed building on Atlantic Avenue in Monterey Park, down the street from strip malls and across the street from Just Tires and Men's Wearhouse.

Mexican sandwiches in the heart of a Chinese-dominated neighborhood? It sounds weird, but don't let the location worry you.

For $7.29, you can get a delicious hearty sandwich and a small side. Several sandwiches on the ever-changing chalkboard are always available, but, more often than not, there are new offerings you have yet to sample. Aguas frescas, which also rotate regularly, are $1.99 for the regular size and $2.75 for the large size.

La Diabla -- grilled chicken, jalapeños, chile de arbol, habanero guacamole, cheese.
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Hot, hot, hot. Like make-you-sweaty hot. Like digestive-issues-tomorrow hot.

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Yummy Italian bread salad.

Bacalao -- Spanish-style cod, roasted red peppers, garlic, olives, all slow-cooked.
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A taste of the Spanish sea in a convenient hand-held form. Deeeeelish.

Red fries.
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Best side in my opinion if you're into fried stuff. And who isn't into fried stuff?

Ahogada -- slow-cooked pork, spicy double dip.
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One of my favorites. Spicy but not La Diabla-spicy. Tender. Juicy. Yum.

Rice pudding.
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Perfect cool side for any of the spicy sandwiches.

Limonada agua fresca.
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A tart classic that's not too sweet.

Mojito -- roasted pork, garlic mojo, slow-cooked onions.
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The pork at Cook's Tortas is to die for, and the Mojito is no exception. This is an awesome flavorful pork option if you fear spicy stuff. The garlic mojo is wondrous.

Mole verde -- grilled chicken, onions, lettuce, pepita-tomatillo mole.
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None of the chicken sandwiches are as rich as the pork and beef offerings, but this is a nice mild option for the less adventurous.

Macaroni salad.
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A favorite of picnic food fans. My friend Bax eats this side in its entirety before she even starts her sandwich!

Choriqueso -- chorizo, melted cheese, fresh salsa, avocado.
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Not quite as good as its ingredients may lead you to think. It's a bit on the drier side, and I prefer the juicier sandwiches here.

Pambaso -- housemade chorizo, potatoes, jalapeños, lettuce, crema, chipotle.
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Excellent chorizo-based sandwich -- better than the Choriqueso. More "oomph" because of the jalapeños and chipotle. More "ahh" because of the crema.

Strawberry lime agua fresca.
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One of my fave aguas frescas. A lovely marriage of sweet and sour.

Milanesa -- breaded steak, tomato, jalapeño, mayo.
Solid sandwich. Breaded steak is usually a winner, but the beef can occasionally be a bit overdone.

Jamaica agua fresca.
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A traditional Mexican drink made from hibiscus. Cook's Tortas makes a very good version.

Mi Ranchito -- nopalitos (cactus), steak, avocado, salsa, beans.
Disappointing mix of interesting ingredients. When I saw nopalitos on the chalkboard, I had to try the Mi Ranchito. Awkward combination of flavors. Didn't work for me.

Azteca -- chipotle cream, chicken, onion, lettuce.
Best chicken sandwich here probably because of the chipotle cream.

Peaches and cream.
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I like getting fruit and cream when I order a spicy sandwich to balance things out.

Bombero -- steak, roasted red pepper mayo, avocado.
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Not that great. Sort of boring.

Molcajete -- grilled steak, queso asado, hot salsa, frijoles.
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Another one of my favorites. Super meaty and packs a punch.

Cuban -- ham, chicken, bacon, cheese, garlic, onions.
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There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. This sandwich just has too much going on, and it's on the greasy side.

Cucumber lime agua fresca.
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Cool as a cucumber. Literally. More lime-y than cucumber-y, though. Really good drink when you go with a spicy sandwich.

Pavo enchilado -- guajillo turkey, apple stuffing, black beans, salsa.
Bizarre sandwich. I only saw it once on the chalkboard and never saw it again. Good choice to nix this one.

Apples and cream.
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Another tasty fruit and cream offering.

Zacatecas -- chorizo seco, pico de gallo, salsa, avocado, jalapeño.
I love chorizo, but the only chorizo sandwich I truly adore at Cook's Tortas is the Pambaso. Sadly, the Zacatecas suffers from a dryness similar to that of the Choriqueso.

Turkey -- turkey breast, lettuce, cranberry, mayo, tomato, dijon mustard.
Snoozer. This is a Thanksgiving on a roll. This is a sandwich for your boring friends.

Grilled veggie -- zucchini, roasted peppers, grilled cheese, tomato, sweet onions.
A decent offering for your vegetarian friends. But really your vegetarian friends should cry themselves to sleep at night because they can't enjoy the out-of-this-world pork here.

Shrimp po' boy -- battered shrimp, lettuce, avocado, red onion remoulade.
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Revelatory. Like Mexico meets New Orleans meets fresh-baked bread. A slight kick. A slight touch of cream. A big win.

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A crunchy side for those who want something lighter.

BBQ chicken salad.
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My friend Glam is a big fan of the salads at Cook's Tortas. She may be the only one on the planet. It's called Cook's Tortas, dear readers. Get a torta!

Sometimes the people behind the counter have a good sense of humor and/or are too lazy to write out the proper pork sandwich name.
I guess this extremely long post shows that I deserve this doodle. Oink!


  1. oh wow, what a compilation of sammiches. i still have to go back to try their sweet po fries.

  2. I was hungry before. Now I'm REALLY hungry.

  3. This is a heckuva post!

    You had me at "the pork is to die for." I will definitely be visiting this place.

  4. OMG. this post has been emailed to Hubby who you know is quite fond of this style of Mexican food.

    p.s. i'm STARVING now.

  5. woot woot! I love this place and will not refer people to this blog post whenever I bring it up. :)

  6. Why have I not been here? Shame on me. Will refer to this exceptional glossary before I check it out.

  7. that cucumber lime agua fresca looks bizarre, but I WANT SOME.

  8. yum -- especially those fresca drinks!

  9. And now I'm starving with an hour to go until lunch.

  10. I love Cook's! Have you go back and try some of your recs!

  11. Haha. With all the times you've been here, I can't believe you haven't finished the menu yet.

  12. Love Cook's Torta's. I mean LOVE. This post is gonna be my inspiration to start straying from my fave pambazo & mocaljete and venture out though! I think ima try the bacalao next!

    BTW, what made you order a turkey torta?! LOL

  13. bacalao! i was at dimsum at elite the other day with some new yorkers and was tempted after we had stuffed ourselves silly to go next-doorish just to get them the torta's. alas, we're not that piggie and didn't (they still had ayce kbbq and guelaguetza on their eating itinerary for that day).

  14. I'm really into fried stuff and Diablas that make me sweat, so basically this place is like Disney World to me :)

  15. I want that cucumber lime drink!

  16. we lived less than 1 mi away on Atlantic before Cook's opened. They took forever during the plywood stage, & I gave up. Now, I'm again closer to Cook's than you & DG, yet we still have not visited.

    It's hard when there are $2.25 "sandwiches" (artisanal be damned) so near by.

  17. Dude, that is so awesome that you tried like EVERYTHING on their menu. One of my lifetime goals is to try tortas at all the good torta places in NorCal and SoCal, so seeing this post was really awesome. So many mexican sandwiches!!! But they seem to lack veggies. A really good torta place is in San Jaun Capistrano. Less than $5 and ginormous and delicious.

  18. woah woah woah!! What a post! I can't wait to try Cook's Tortas!

  19. This reminds me of Rick Bayless's Xoco.

  20. Oh man I really need to finally go to this place! I want to try the mojito and the shrimp po' boy! The agua frescas all looked good and interesting too. Why oh why haven't I gone here?

  21. That is one hell of an impressive collection of tortas!

  22. I just searched for Glam and got this post. And God honestly, I have tears in my eyes looking at this food. Dead fucking serious.


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