Drowned (But Not Yet Burned) at El Mexiquense

The torta ahogada at Overland's El Mexiquense - Ian Froeb
Ian Froeb
The torta ahogada at Overland's El Mexiquense
The torta ahogada is a traditional Mexican sandwich that is "drowned" (ahogada) in red chile sauce. Since the torta ahogada at Taqueria Durango was one of my 100 Favorite St. Louis Dishes, when a reader informed me that Overland's El Mexiquense (9519 Lackland Road; 314-428-4919) also offered the sandwich, I knew I would have to pay the restaurant a visit.

What that reader didn't tell me? After I ordered El Mexiquense's torta ahogada, I still had another, very important choice to make.

Taqueria Durango's torta ahogada has only carnitas and onion. At El Mexiquense, the sandwich is more like a traditional torta, with cabbage, tomato, jalapeño, onion and mayo atop the meat -- pork leg, in this case. The meat and its condiments are served on the traditional oversized bolillo roll, which is then covered with a spicy red-chile sauce.

How spicy is the sauce? That is your decision. El Mexiquense's menu lets you choose the heat level: 10, 30, 50, 70 or 100.

There is no challenge, as at the Florissant Thai restaurant Pearl Cafe, but on the chance that this sauce's heat approached Pearl Cafe's fearsome heights, I decided to start at the beginning, with a 10.

The sauce was a touch smoky, a touch tangy, definitely peppery, but not overwhelmingly hot. With the help of the jalapeño inside the sandwich, the torta definitely dampened my brow, but I doubt true capsaicin fiends would even notice.

Heat aside, though, this was a fine sandwich, and I look forward to trying it again -- at a level 30 or maybe, for your entertainment, a 50 or even a 70.
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