When it comes to quick Mexican eats, the taco immediately comes to mind. But Mexico has serious sandwich game with both the torta world and its cousin, the imposing, gut-busting, incredible cemita.
A specialty of Puebla, the cemita is distinguished by its slightly sweet, eggy sesame-seed roll, its neat layers of fillings, and its shredded quesillo cheese.
Let's break it down.
The bread. Whereas tortas come on a white roll called a telera, the cemitas use a round, rich, eggy, roll. A proper cemita roll is soft in the middle, just a little crisp on the outside and sturdy enough to stand up to a pile of toppings.
The filling. Think refried beans, shredded white cheese, avocado, tomato, lettuce, chipotle chilies, onion, mayo, and the fresh herb papalo—a sort of cross between arugula and cilantro. All those together define the cemita, but that's before you even get to the main event: Do you want fried chicken? Carnitas? Lengua? Carne asada? You can have them all.
Where to get them:
Cemitas Puebla, Chicago. Now with two area locations, this sandwich shop has a cult following for its towering cemitas on homemade sesame seed rolls. Their chipotle sauce is one secret to their success, their excellent fillings like arabe (spit-roasted pork and onions) and milanesa (breaded pork loin), another.
Gran Electrica, Brooklyn. On its brunch menu, this popular Dumbo Mexican spot features a cemita with with beef al pastor, quesillo, avocado salsa, frijoles, chipotle, pickled red onion, cilantro and—the brunch touch—a fried egg.
Elvirita Cemitas, Los Angeles. Praised by local food authorities including Jonathan Gold, this sandwich shop offers cemitas in classic form, from the shredded quesillo to the papalo to ample fresh avocado.