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A torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China. Matthew Kang

Dive Into These 12 Super-Spicy Tortas Ahogadas in Los Angeles

Where to find the iconic Jalisco sandwich in its finest forms

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Whether one’s favorite local sandwich is a pastrami on rye, jambon-beurre, bánh mì, or a torta ahogada, there’s no regional sandwich that can reach its potential without the local bread, whether artisanal or straight off the shelf of the neighborhood market. It’s all about the bread when it comes to sandwiches, and Jalisco’s birote salado, a hard, salty bolillo roll, is the main ingredient in one of Mexico’s most iconic sandwiches. Don Luis de La Torre, owner of Tortas Ahogadas El Güerito, claims his father created the sandwich in the mid-1930s in the center of La Perla Tapatía, a nickname for Guadalajara.

The original recipe is simple: a birote salado spread with refried beans and stuffed with carnitas (in Jalisco, there are other fillings, like hog’s maw, beef tongue, panela cheese, and shrimp), which is then drowned in a heaping ladle of tomato sauce. Next, cooks pour over salsa de chile Yahualica, a hotter, more vibrant regional variety of chile de árbol from Yahualica, Jalisco. The torta is then garnished with slivers of pickled red onion and a lime wedge. It’s one of the rare Mexican dishes, along with the aguachile, where lip-scarring heat is part of the dish rather than a condiment, and if it isn’t hot enough, ask the tortero to turn up the heat.

Tapatío cuisine has always been present in Los Angeles, with most Jalisco-style restaurants serving antojitos as well as tortas ahogadas. But in the last decade, the sandwich has become more prominent due to the rise of local bread makers. Many tortas ahogadas spots source their bread from Jaliscan bakers providing excellent birotes salados, like Wilmington’s Tortas Ahogadas La China, a recently opened stand that only serves the classic combo — tortas ahogadas, and tacos dorados — just like at a street stand in Guadalajara. There’s bound to be one of these proud Jaliscan vendors selling Mexico’s most fiery torta almost everywhere in Los Angeles.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Tortas La Tapatía

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At this weekend-only tortas ahogadas stand located inside the Molina Tires and Wheels parking lot is a true Guadalajara experience of tortas ahogadas, which are doused with salsa roja from a ladle into plastic to-go bags. Be sure to get an order of tacos dorados covered in carnitas and drowned in the same mouth-numbing salsa. The motto here is “mañana si amanese crudo vengase a curarsela con una rica torta ahogada” — if you wake up hungover in the morning, a delicious torta ahogada will cure it.

Tortas Ahogadas La Ramadita

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Under a shady ramadita, or little thatch roof (here it’s an overhanging roof) with a Chivas emblem on the sign sits North Hollywood’s temple of Tapatío street foods. Featured dishes include shredded beef and potato tacos, pig’s foot tostadas, and tortas ahogadas made with extra sturdy rolls. Enjoy one of the best tortas ahogadas in LA, then have the fine jericallas (a custard-like dessert) in this regional Mexican oasis off the dry, cracked, barren stretch of Vineland Avenue.

A split torta ahogada laced with spicy sauce in a takeout container.
Tortas Ahogadas La Ramadita
Farley Elliott

Tortas Ahogadas Chapala

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This Tapatío restaurant serves classics like pozole, carne en su jugo, and tacos de barbacoa, but it’s also a destination for festive molcajetes of grilled meats, cheeses, and seafood swimming in a hot, coarse lava stone mortar filled with a pool of bubbling salsa. They also make a beautiful sloppy torta ahogada filled with a generous portion of carnitas in a coarse birote salado served in clay plates. Drinks are served in jarritos (clay mugs), for a touch of Mexican charm in a Rialto strip mall.

Tortas Ahogadas El Guero

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This is where East LA residents have been getting their torta ahogada fix for decades, where the ends of the “authentic birote salado” are sliced off, restaurant-style. There are plenty of bargains for hungry families calling in large orders. Soothe the blistered corners of your mouth with ice cold Estrellas, an iconic beer from Jalisco, while browsing black and white photos of old Guadalajara in the heart of East LA.

Tortas Ahogadas Ameca

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For almost a quarter-century, Gerardo and Maria Dávila’s East LA cenaduría has been offering fine enchiladas, tacos dorados, beef barbacoa tacos, and other antojitos as good as you’ll find at the town plaza of Ameca in Jalisco. Most regulars go straight for their punishingly spicy and tangy tortas ahogadas of carnitas jammed into an elongated, football-shaped birote salado. And if you feel like going off the menu, ask Dávila to make you a shrimp torta ahogada, another popular filling in Jalisco.

A torta drowned in sauce on a white plate.
Tortas Ahogadas Ameca
Rob Gokee

Chago Ahogadas

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Built on the solid foundation of housemade birote salado, using a recipe developed by founder Santiago “Chago” Laguna and Chago’s first panadero (baker) Don Ángel Solis, this tortas ahogadas specialist originally opened in Guadalajara in 1985. Chago is the only vendor in town that does it all in house from the bread to the meat. The Montebello location opened in 2006 with a ‘50s-style soda fountain design just like in Guadalajara, with black and white checkerboard floor, shiny red vinyl booths, and memorabilia providing a novel setting for stiff rolls drowned in tomato sauce and salsa de chile de árbol.

Fillings include classic carnitas, and for a couple of quarters more, the tasty pork tongue. The Laguna family still oversees production of birotes salados, now made by panaderos Francisco Javier Calvillo and Omar Calvillo, a dedicated father and son team making bread rolls that sets this torta ahogada stand apart.

Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara

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Since 2001, the Estrada family has been filling the bellies of Huntington Park residents with hearty soups, tacos dorados (crunchy tacos), Mexican egg dishes, and tortas ahogadas at their Guadalajara-style restaurant. Enjoy their tasty carnitas in birotes salados made by a local baker, as spicy as you can withstand, with a michelada or cantaritos — tequila with Squirt and citrus served in a clay mug. The inviting dining room is perfect for the whole family on a Saturday afternoon.

Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara on a white plate, covered in spicy sauce.
Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara
Farley Elliott

Tortuga Bay

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Mario and Allegra Pérez have developed a menu for everyone: Po’ boys, hamburgers, ceviche, and hefty volcano nachos. Before it opened in 2008, the Pérezes worked at numerous other restaurants, hence the eclectic menu. Inglewood denizens are guaranteed a super spicy torta ahogada in a crispy sourdough roll, which holds up very well under the bath of salsa roja.

Tortas Ahogadas El Santuario

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One of the many outstanding vendors that’s gathered at the Patata Street market in Cudahy, driven by the publicity of the popular Los Sabrosos al Horno, this stand serves delicious tortas ahogadas on a plate, or en bolsita (plastic bag), just like in Guadalajara. Open on Saturday and Sunday only, this street stand also offers antojitos tapatíos like pickled pork skin tostadas, in addition to the traditional torta ahogada stand option of tacos dorados — deep fried tacos that are covered in the stand’s tomato sauce and salsa de chile de árbol.

Tortas Ahogadas La China

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Opened in 2020, Eidy “La China” Cardona’s small Wilmington stand is everything one wants in a traditional torta ahogada vendor. Guadalajara native and veteran tortero Rigoberto Escobedo brings this recipe from Guadalajara, where he previously worked making tortas ahogadas. Tortas ahogadas and tacos dorados are the main attraction here, so go for the combo. The dense birote salado is made by a local Tapatío baker while the salsa imparts a viscous tang to the tomato sauce. The simply spiced salsa thins at the edges while delivering throat-clearing ferocity. 

A torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China.
Tortas Ahogadas La China
Matthew Kang

Tortas Ahogadas El Águila

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Miguel Lara’s beloved tortas ahogadas pop-up that he runs with daughter Natalie Lara is based on a recipe the elder Lara has been making at home for decades. The pop-up has developed a fierce following among lovers of ultra-spicy salsa de chile Yahualica, a trademark of this roving stand. Made with a fresh birote salado from mod panadería Gusto Bread — which also hosts one of the regular stops, along with breweries frequented by Latinx customers — expect traditional tender, shredded carnitas, or even shrimp, as well as bean and mushroom fillings for vegans. El Águila is building a updated Mexican tradition shaped by Los Angeles. Note: The address listed is for Gusto Bread but check Instagram for the latest locations for Tortas Ahogadas El Águila’s pop-up.

Tortas Ahogadas Los Primos

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This exciting mini-chain with locations in Pomona and Santa Ana conjures images of giant tortas inside of Guadalajara’s Mercado Libertad with their La Vikinga — a lonche de lomo (pork loin sandwich) is nearly the size of a duffel bag. La Gigante is the length of Shaq’s forearm, and the tortas ahogadas are just as impressive in their sloppy yet appetizing plating that might require a fork, but the mess is half the fun.

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Tortas La Tapatía

At this weekend-only tortas ahogadas stand located inside the Molina Tires and Wheels parking lot is a true Guadalajara experience of tortas ahogadas, which are doused with salsa roja from a ladle into plastic to-go bags. Be sure to get an order of tacos dorados covered in carnitas and drowned in the same mouth-numbing salsa. The motto here is “mañana si amanese crudo vengase a curarsela con una rica torta ahogada” — if you wake up hungover in the morning, a delicious torta ahogada will cure it.

Tortas Ahogadas La Ramadita

A split torta ahogada laced with spicy sauce in a takeout container.
Tortas Ahogadas La Ramadita
Farley Elliott

Under a shady ramadita, or little thatch roof (here it’s an overhanging roof) with a Chivas emblem on the sign sits North Hollywood’s temple of Tapatío street foods. Featured dishes include shredded beef and potato tacos, pig’s foot tostadas, and tortas ahogadas made with extra sturdy rolls. Enjoy one of the best tortas ahogadas in LA, then have the fine jericallas (a custard-like dessert) in this regional Mexican oasis off the dry, cracked, barren stretch of Vineland Avenue.

A split torta ahogada laced with spicy sauce in a takeout container.
Tortas Ahogadas La Ramadita
Farley Elliott

Tortas Ahogadas Chapala

This Tapatío restaurant serves classics like pozole, carne en su jugo, and tacos de barbacoa, but it’s also a destination for festive molcajetes of grilled meats, cheeses, and seafood swimming in a hot, coarse lava stone mortar filled with a pool of bubbling salsa. They also make a beautiful sloppy torta ahogada filled with a generous portion of carnitas in a coarse birote salado served in clay plates. Drinks are served in jarritos (clay mugs), for a touch of Mexican charm in a Rialto strip mall.

Tortas Ahogadas El Guero

This is where East LA residents have been getting their torta ahogada fix for decades, where the ends of the “authentic birote salado” are sliced off, restaurant-style. There are plenty of bargains for hungry families calling in large orders. Soothe the blistered corners of your mouth with ice cold Estrellas, an iconic beer from Jalisco, while browsing black and white photos of old Guadalajara in the heart of East LA.

Tortas Ahogadas Ameca

A torta drowned in sauce on a white plate.
Tortas Ahogadas Ameca
Rob Gokee

For almost a quarter-century, Gerardo and Maria Dávila’s East LA cenaduría has been offering fine enchiladas, tacos dorados, beef barbacoa tacos, and other antojitos as good as you’ll find at the town plaza of Ameca in Jalisco. Most regulars go straight for their punishingly spicy and tangy tortas ahogadas of carnitas jammed into an elongated, football-shaped birote salado. And if you feel like going off the menu, ask Dávila to make you a shrimp torta ahogada, another popular filling in Jalisco.

A torta drowned in sauce on a white plate.
Tortas Ahogadas Ameca
Rob Gokee

Chago Ahogadas

Built on the solid foundation of housemade birote salado, using a recipe developed by founder Santiago “Chago” Laguna and Chago’s first panadero (baker) Don Ángel Solis, this tortas ahogadas specialist originally opened in Guadalajara in 1985. Chago is the only vendor in town that does it all in house from the bread to the meat. The Montebello location opened in 2006 with a ‘50s-style soda fountain design just like in Guadalajara, with black and white checkerboard floor, shiny red vinyl booths, and memorabilia providing a novel setting for stiff rolls drowned in tomato sauce and salsa de chile de árbol.

Fillings include classic carnitas, and for a couple of quarters more, the tasty pork tongue. The Laguna family still oversees production of birotes salados, now made by panaderos Francisco Javier Calvillo and Omar Calvillo, a dedicated father and son team making bread rolls that sets this torta ahogada stand apart.

Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara

Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara on a white plate, covered in spicy sauce.
Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara
Farley Elliott

Since 2001, the Estrada family has been filling the bellies of Huntington Park residents with hearty soups, tacos dorados (crunchy tacos), Mexican egg dishes, and tortas ahogadas at their Guadalajara-style restaurant. Enjoy their tasty carnitas in birotes salados made by a local baker, as spicy as you can withstand, with a michelada or cantaritos — tequila with Squirt and citrus served in a clay mug. The inviting dining room is perfect for the whole family on a Saturday afternoon.

Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara on a white plate, covered in spicy sauce.
Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara
Farley Elliott

Tortuga Bay

Mario and Allegra Pérez have developed a menu for everyone: Po’ boys, hamburgers, ceviche, and hefty volcano nachos. Before it opened in 2008, the Pérezes worked at numerous other restaurants, hence the eclectic menu. Inglewood denizens are guaranteed a super spicy torta ahogada in a crispy sourdough roll, which holds up very well under the bath of salsa roja.

Tortas Ahogadas El Santuario

One of the many outstanding vendors that’s gathered at the Patata Street market in Cudahy, driven by the publicity of the popular Los Sabrosos al Horno, this stand serves delicious tortas ahogadas on a plate, or en bolsita (plastic bag), just like in Guadalajara. Open on Saturday and Sunday only, this street stand also offers antojitos tapatíos like pickled pork skin tostadas, in addition to the traditional torta ahogada stand option of tacos dorados — deep fried tacos that are covered in the stand’s tomato sauce and salsa de chile de árbol.

Tortas Ahogadas La China

A torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China.
Tortas Ahogadas La China
Matthew Kang

Opened in 2020, Eidy “La China” Cardona’s small Wilmington stand is everything one wants in a traditional torta ahogada vendor. Guadalajara native and veteran tortero Rigoberto Escobedo brings this recipe from Guadalajara, where he previously worked making tortas ahogadas. Tortas ahogadas and tacos dorados are the main attraction here, so go for the combo. The dense birote salado is made by a local Tapatío baker while the salsa imparts a viscous tang to the tomato sauce. The simply spiced salsa thins at the edges while delivering throat-clearing ferocity. 

A torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China.
Tortas Ahogadas La China
Matthew Kang

Tortas Ahogadas El Águila

Miguel Lara’s beloved tortas ahogadas pop-up that he runs with daughter Natalie Lara is based on a recipe the elder Lara has been making at home for decades. The pop-up has developed a fierce following among lovers of ultra-spicy salsa de chile Yahualica, a trademark of this roving stand. Made with a fresh birote salado from mod panadería Gusto Bread — which also hosts one of the regular stops, along with breweries frequented by Latinx customers — expect traditional tender, shredded carnitas, or even shrimp, as well as bean and mushroom fillings for vegans. El Águila is building a updated Mexican tradition shaped by Los Angeles. Note: The address listed is for Gusto Bread but check Instagram for the latest locations for Tortas Ahogadas El Águila’s pop-up.

Tortas Ahogadas Los Primos

This exciting mini-chain with locations in Pomona and Santa Ana conjures images of giant tortas inside of Guadalajara’s Mercado Libertad with their La Vikinga — a lonche de lomo (pork loin sandwich) is nearly the size of a duffel bag. La Gigante is the length of Shaq’s forearm, and the tortas ahogadas are just as impressive in their sloppy yet appetizing plating that might require a fork, but the mess is half the fun.

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