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Its more than a taco. Its a torta!
The Hispanic equivalent of a sandwich, this lunch is available with a variety of toppings
Jorge Pagan holds a hearty torta at Mojo's in downtown Gainesville. The sandwich features seasoned grilled steak, pico de gallo, jalapeños, grilled onions, peppers, mayonnaise and chipotle-ranch sauce on a grilled roll.

At Mojo's, a Tex-Mex restaurant on the downtown Gainesville square, tortas are a new item on the menu.

But the Hispanic sandwich has been a mainstay in the culture for years.

The sandwich is piled high with your choice of meat and toppings like grilled onions, peppers or jalapenos on grilled bread.

"I know in Mexico they call it balos bread because it's kind of bulky," said Jorge Pagan, the chef at Mojo's. "I get mine at different Mexican bakeries ... many stores sell the same bread."

The loaf of bread used for the sandwich has a crust similar to French bread, but its shape is more oblong.

Pagan, a native of Colombia who has been cooking for 15 years, said the sandwich is called different things in different countries.

"Every country is different; we don't call it torta - for us torta is a cake," Pagan said. "For Mexicans it's a sandwich; they do it with steak or pork. They have many, many different kinds.

"They all kind of have the same style but with different meat or seasonings."

You can also find tortas at Hispanic grocery stores along Browns Bridge road and Atlanta Highway, and even an occasional lunch truck will offer them, too.

Flavors depend on who's making them - you can find chicken, steamed beef or breaded steak tortas, or the more exotic beef tongue. At Mojo's there is an option of cilantro steak - Pagan's favorite - chicken and ground beef.

As Pagan prepared the sandwich he added steak, cheese, onions, peppers, lettuce and mayonnaise to the creation. It can also be topped with avocado.

"You take the torta bread and spread it with a little bit of butter to toast it," Pagan said. "I have some grilled onions and peppers, add a little bit of mayonnaise. Put a little bit of pico de gallo and some jalapenos and we also have a chipotle ranch.

"The meat is seasoned with a mix of cilantro steak that we made, we blend the cilantro with some beef seasoning and spices and we also have beef broth base that we use on the steak."

Melanie Metallinos, the owner of Mojo's since March, said the sandwich is "a guy's sandwich; men love these because it's just so much," she said.

Donnie Ramirez, a cook at Carniceria Tapatia Grocery and Meat Market in Gainesville, said the chicken torta is the most popular at the grocery store. He also added that "onions, tomatoes, sour cream, beans, chili ... black beans and sometimes white (beans)," are the most requested toppings.

At Carniceria Tapatia, tortas are cooked to order and served hot. You can also order tacos, burritos and other Hispanic specialties right from the to-go window.

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