A Cuban sandwich is one thing. A torta Cubana, though, is on a whole 'nother level.
Popularized in the markets and streets of Mexico City, the torta Cubana deviates from the famed formula of ham, cheese and pickles. Well, it does have all those things, but that's because it has everything. It's the Dagwood of tortas; a huge, groaning, glorious celebration of just about every flavor in Mexican cooking. Ham? Yup. Breaded milanesa steak? Sure. Chorizo? Tons of it. Cheese? At least two kinds. And, hell, why not throw in an egg and some hot dogs, too?
There are a few tortas Cubanas around Dallas; Torteria Insurgentes has a notable example. But for sheer size and splendor, El Rincon del D.F., a torta specialist tucked into a gas station on Walnut Hill Lane, might just be the champion.
This isn't a pretty stretch of Walnut Hill. Between Harry Hines and Interstate 35, things get industrial, with tons of truck traffic, auto repair shops, dodgy-looking old motels and, oddly enough, the headquarters of Dave and Buster's. The gas station's front sign displays blanks where the gas prices should be, and a big blank space where you'd expect a logo. Inside, it's all about tortas.
El Rincon del D.F. features 31 tortas, plus a few tacos and other dishes for good measure. I've tried a few, but there's nothing like the Cubana ($11.99), with its modest description: "de todo un poco" ("a little of everything"). They're not kidding. "You want everything on it?" the counter clerk will ask. Yes, of course you do.
By my count, that's breaded milanesa cutlet, slices of deli ham, chorizo, sliced-up hot dogs, chunks of pork, smoked poultry of some kind, a couple of fried eggs, both unmeltable and fully melted varieties of cheese, avocado, tomato, onion and slices of jalapeño pepper, all on a sandwich the size of my laptop's keyboard.
The toasted bolillo loaf (plain, wheat, sesame or jalapeño cheese) puts up a good fight but falls apart almost immediately, groaning under the weight of all that meat, cheese, egg and filling. The finishing touch: one of El Rincon's three salsas. Having dunked it in all of them, I'd suggest the salsa verde.
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But is it delicious? Of course. It's both intimidating and thrilling at the same time, a Man v. Food challenge that actually tastes good. The chorizo is particularly excellent, but hot peppers and hot sauce do a good job cutting the heavy dose of meat. Cheese bubbles out of every edge. The milanesa has brilliant crunch.
El Rincon del D.F. doesn't make these beautiful sandwiches for casual foodies; they make them for the hardworking warehouse district employees who fill up the dining area at lunchtime. This is a place to load up on protein and calories before a long afternoon on the job. Don't be that ass who sits there Instagramming instead of eating.
And don't order the Cubana unless you mean it. Feeling only a little hungry? Get one of the other 30 tortas. This blockbuster sandwich is for serious eaters only. Go big or go home.
El Rincon del D.F., 2630 Walnut Hill Lane. Open 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday