170 E. Washington Street
Painesville, OH 44077
by Beau Cadiyo
“Una Torta” is Mexican for “Sandwich.” “HA!” I hear you saying to yourself, “this uncultured buffoon thinks, like George W. Bush, that Mexican is a language! Tosh!” Well go jump in un lago, amigo – in Spain, y en Español, a sandwich is “un bocadillo.” Without getting into details, I think the differences between languages should be classified as new languages - thus, in Mexican a sandwich is "una torta." Whatever language you speak or make up, though, the meaning is the same: leavened bread with filling.
Of course, you don’t need to resort to linguistic analysis to determine that this is a Mexican restaurant: it’s fricking called “La Mexicana” and is connected to what is, apparently, the largest Mexican grocery store in Ohio. Inside the restaurant bit there is a faux clay-shingled roof, I suppose to make you feel like you are on an outdoor patio. The large, open grill is always busy; the cook jumps around like a worm in a bean and the short girl who takes orders laughs at my mispronunciations in Spanish and then makes her own attempts in English. There are always a few people sitting bar-style around the restaurant, which has one window looking into the street and another looking into the grocery store.
Una torta costs $3. It is small, in a chewy, sauce-soaked bun of some exotic, high-quality ingredients, the taste and texture of which would make any French baker stand up and take notice. The chicken and pepper filling, the same as in their chicken burritos, is stunning – saucy, shredded pollo asada perfectly prepared, sensibly seasoned and carefully cooked. It’s one of several options, the rest of which I have not yet tried. Despite the amazingness of it all, I was a little disappointed. The food is infallibly delicious, but the torta was just so small – about the size of a large hamburger. OK, so maybe it wasn’t small for others, but it certainly was for me. I was expecting something good on the scale of their burritos, which are massive, stuffed affairs with the second most delicious tortillas I’ve ever tasted.
Having grown up a few miles from the US-Mexico border, and having eaten epic amounts of Mexican food throughout my life, La Mexicana is easily the best I’ve had in Ohio and beats, handily, many places in Southern California, Northern California, Oregon, Virginia, Maryland, Wales and Spain. It easily justifies the trip to Painesville, but – y tengo un dolor en mi corazón – skip the torta and go for a burrito. Other non-professional eaters have been unable to finish it in a single sitting; it’s well worth the extra $2.