For anyone looking to extend their gustatory repertoire beyond the putative American take on Mexican food to veritable Mexico City street food, a visit to Torteria Insurgentes is a must. Named after Mexico City’s main strip, Insurgentes serves up delightfully tantalizing comfort food found at food stands along the busy boulevard. Sure, they have tacos, which are good, but a trip to this place demands a sampling of one of several other Mexican antojitos (snacks) like huaraches, sopes, pambazos, alambres or quesadillas that will make you want to belt out a mariachi-like grito. It’s also an excellent opportunity to practice the Spanish you learned in high school because chances are your server won’t speak English, an aspect that lends to the place’s credibility and charm.
Forget greasy quesadillas made with factory flour tortillas and Monterey Jack cheese. At Insurgentes, the quesadillas resemble a colossal American taco, beginning with a corn masa that's fried in the restaurant. The crispy exterior is filled with the meat of your choice: chicken or beef tinga (shredded meat and onions stewed in a chipotle broth) or chicharron prensado, a shredded pork that’s marinated in salsa roja for five days. There's also the must-try pastor, pork marinated in pineapple, onions and annatto, a spice that comes from the seeds of the achiote tree and lends the meat its vibrant red hue. This largesse of spicy carne is then topped with lettuce and Mexican crema. For $1 extra, you can add grilled onions, jalapeno or avocado. You’ll never eat another Tex Mex quesadilla again.
Another snack that’ll bring you closer to Mexico is the alambres, something like a Mexican Philly cheesesteak without the bread. Try the Insurgentes alambre, a combination of bistec, chorizo, ham, bacon, green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and nopales. Nopales, thin grilled strips of the fleshy pad of a prickly pear cactus, qualify as a superfood for its vitamins, antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering powers, which you’ll need after all that meat. The medley is topped with a blanket of queso Oaxaca and cilantro and is served with folded corn tortillas.
You might also try a sope — a fat corn cake smeared with refried beans, your meat choice, diced onions, queso fresco and cilantro — or maybe a huarache, blue corn masa in the shape of a sandal for which it’s named, also topped with beans, meat, lettuce, crema and more queso fresco.
Insurgentes serves a whopping 19 different tortas, including a Cubano and a pambazo. Pambazos are notable for the bread that’s soaked in a guajillo chili sauce before it's fried and stuffed with potatoes, chorizo, lettuce, and crema. At Insurgentes, the queso fresco cascades from the inside of the sandwich and is fun to wipe from your chin with your red chili stained fingers.
Like most good taquerias, the tables are set with both red and green salsas. Here, the green sauce is the mild option. The red sauce is nothing short of a Promethean act of stolen liquid fire that’s been poured into squeeze bottle. When asked what makes their salsa roja so hot, the manager told us it’s a secreto. If you’re traveling down that spicy route, a glass of their sweet agua jamaica or a horchata is highly recommended to offset throat burns.
After what may be your first taste of Mexican street food, gracias a Torteria Insurgentes, you can go home, pretend your bed is a hammock, and thank Mexico for sending us its best.
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Torteria Insurgentes, 3701 W. Northwest Hwy. Suite 310; 7019 Holy Hill; 3114 Saturn Road, Garland