There always seems to be a direct correlation between the way life is treating you and the way your food is working with you. At least that's the way things seem to work for me. I mean, don't you notice that when life hands you lemons, one of the lemons squirts you in the eye as you're trying to make lemonade?
It never fails that your burrito falls apart at the seams after you've had a crappy day. You can always count on burning your chin and staining your pants when you pull the whole sheet of cheese off a slice of pizza with your teeth, leaving you with a sorry piece of sauce laden crust on the very same day that your boss ripped you a new one.
On the flip side, good food experiences seem to coincidentally go hand in hand with good days, and I'm pretty sure that my recent discovery of Monterey Park's Cook's Tortas is a sign that things are indeed looking up for me. And let me tell you, they are.
Yes, I'm still unemployed. But my resume is getting noticed and prospective employers are starting to call back. I've gone to a few interviews and have done pretty well. I've been looking pretty damn fly in my perfectly tailored black suit jazzed up with a blue shirt, skinny zebra belt, and patent leather pumps. Things are just working.
Now Cook's Tortas may not be your usual tortas joint, but nevertheless, things have a way of working there too. And let me add, they work pretty darn well.
Owner Ricardo Diaz's tortas range from traditional--such as their Milanesa or Carne Asada--to nouveau--with options like Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese, Bacalao, or Chicken Mole Verde. The restaurant's floor-to-ceiling chalkboard menu looks more like a team roster with each sandwich's key components listed underneath their respective sandwich captain.
It's fitting, though. Sandwich Teamwork is probably the most important element to sandwich success and Cook's Tortas definitely has it. Their in-house baked bread is nicely crusty on the outside, moist and dense on the inside, and more like a ciabatta than your usual bolillo. Most importantly, its size, shape and texture work so well at holding all its teammates together in a cohesive package. Inside that package, the ingredients team doesn't fuck around either: meats, veggies and other condiments combine to create tasty and interesting flavor combinations and hold on to each other to ensure minimal slippage--a sandwich phenomenon that I recall Tony Bourdain once comparing to sliding tectonic plates.
A "La Diabla" torta I had one day--with chicken slathered in chile de arbol and habanero and accompanied by jalapeño and guacamole--was moist and deliciously spicy.
The beef tongue inside my lengua torta was perfectly tender and tasted even better with the jalapeños and mayo that came with.
Though the breaded steak in my milanesa torta was a tad on the dry side, the sandwich as a whole was still fine.
All the little extras at Cook's Tortas also work to set this place apart from the rest. All tortas come with one of the restaurant's creative sides such as their yummy "Red Fries" (shichimi togarashi-sprinkled sweet potato fries), watermelon pickles, or new potato salad. Huge jars or brightly-colored and freshly-made aguas frescas sit atop the counter tempting each customer with creative flavor infusions such as cucumber lime and pineapple celery. There are freshly baked pastries and Illy espresso served here, with cute little diagrams of the different drinks and their foam to espresso ratios drawn on the chalkboard wall.
Life is getting good again, and I'm so glad I found Cook's Tortas. If life were slinging me more suckage, the insides of a Five Dollar Footlong would be sliding out onto my lap for sure.
Cook's Tortas' mascot Monkey Lady here thinks so too.
1944 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Here's what other local bloggers have to say about Cook's Tortas:
Eating LA wonders why they aren't everywhere.
Food GPS shows a photo of owner Diaz's thoughts on a pig's rightful place.