To refer to a torta as Mexico's answer to a sandwich would be calumny. Mexico City street food por excelencia, if a torta isn't exactly a work of art it is by all means a handicraft. A roll is split in half and heated while its contents are cooked on a grill. It might be filled with ham, chicken, cheese, egg, roast pork, a breaded cutlet, shredded pork in adobo or any combination of those. A traditional torta is not piled high with meat, but stacked with additional complementary elements: refried beans, onions, sliced jalapeños or chipotle sauce, avocado, tomato. To call a torta fast food is deceptive. Torteros are often painstaking in their preparations.
Tortas are most often eaten from stalls on the street while standing.
But they are also available at cafeterias like Armando, which claims to have invented the torta in 1892.
The torta combinada, with various ingredients piled atop each other, is also very popular, and without a doubt one of the causes of the extreme obesity problem in Mexico City. Some excellent versions of these are available at the cantina El Portal, about which I have posted previously. The Tepito and the Toluqueña are killers (and I am not referring to the cardiological punch they pack).
A joint on calle Juan Escutia near the corner of Zamora serves tortas a la barda, a specialty from Tampico. They include beans, ham, sausage, head cheese, American cheese, panela cheese, avocado and salsa. I had to try it once. I was underwhelmed. I might have liked it better had the ingredients been heated through.
I draw the line at El Cuadrilatero, on calle Luis Moya near the Alameda, owned by wrestler Super Astro. If you order the torta El Gladiador and consume all of it -- that's about two and a half pounds of sandwich -- within fifteen minutes, you get it for free.