El Atoron's Got Huge Tortas and A Winning Personality

Taqueria El Atoron 2023 Henderson Ave. 214-887-8846

Dude Factor: 7, or Jolly Green Giant, on a scale of 1 (My Giant) to 10 (Andre the Giant)

Searching for my second Sunday greaseball last weekend, I was in the midst of one of those precipitous hunger spirals -- in which you're so hungry that nothing sounds any good, so you just keep driving, getting hungrier and more disgusted by the food choices you pass -- until, on Henderson Avenue by the Pearl Cup, I found the one thing that can kill that vicious cycle: a choice parking spot.

Suddenly, the clouds parted and a burger with fried pickles at the Blue Collar Bar became the obvious answer -- until I walked up and found the door locked, the inside dark and chairs on the tables. Sure, now I know it closed at the end of May -- "pending legal issues" -- and it was sorely missed on Sunday afternoon, until I spotted El Atoron down the street on the left. "Tortas gigantes," their tall sign promised, which sounded like just the amount of torta I would need.

Keeping a safe distance from Barcadia, careful not to turn my back, I made the short walk up to El Atoron's small brick house on the corner lot, with bars on the windows and a sign that, while way crooked, most certainly lit up "OPEN."

Three other folks were eating in the small dining area up front -- one at a larger table in the middle of the room, and two others on stools at the counter. They have tacos ("succulent and ethereal"), quesadillas, gorditas and plenty of other options, but with my tunnel vision working, "tortas gigantes" were all I could think of.

The tortas are named for the country that inspired each particular meat combination, but beyond those clues nothing on the board will tell you what's what. A visit to their online menu is recommended (our Cheap Bastard will tell you the same). I had no idea what I was getting. But with highlights from the World Cup final on the TV -- a guy at the counter muttered, "España. España" for the length of my stay -- I did the most patriotic thing I could think of, and ordered from my gut. I chose the "Alemana."

The German torta, their online menu tells me now, includes fried steak, ham, sausage and cheese. When my order came up, what it looked like to me was a hubcap filled with a meat cocktail -- variously cut-up animal bits held together by a cascade of white cheese goop.

For color variety, the meaty miasma included avocado, tomato, onion and jalapenos. Opening up the sandwich for a closer look, I managed to identify a few pink-brown protein items: a big slice of ham, breaded beef, another slice of ham, a hot dog sliced lengthwise into quarters, and another, rectangular meat. (I like your work here with this sandwich, but what it really could use is a hot dog. No, no, slice it the other way.)

The first few bites were unbelievable, and tortas always seem to go down quickly, without it registering just how much I've consumed. Halfway through the sandwich, though (it came sliced in half, and I'll cop to falling back on a knife and fork to cut it up further), I hit the wall.

Seated at the window, I nearly lost the second half of the sandwich when I stood up -- be warned, those counters are far shorter than regulation-size. After a quick catch of the falling half-torta, I got the rest wrapped up to go, to finish off the German gut-bomb later in the day. The meat mix stood up well to the fridge-and-microwave treatment, even if, by then, the meat looked about as sweaty as I felt after finishing the whole torta.

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Patrick Michels
Contact: Patrick Michels