On a tip from a friend, I recently visited Tortas Las Tortugas in Oak Cliff. In a building that might have once been a Dairy Queen, this very friendly and sharply run establishment is mostly void of the standard Tex-Mex fare found in Dallas. Instead they specialize in hearty Mexican sandwiches known to non-gringos as tortas.
A theory has been suggested that a sandwich is only as good as the bread that cradles it. Fortunately Tortas las Tortugas owners and brothers, Raul and Martin Solis, help prove this hypothesis.
"Raul and Martin opened this place because there was no place in Dallas to get the kind of bread we bake," said Alma Solis, Raul's wife. "They're bakers, their dad was a baker, so it's really what they specialize in."
Bolillo is a specific kind of bread that used in a Mexican torta and is slightly wider and thinner a French baguette. At Tortas Las Tortugas, they bake theirs daily and the amazing flavor and aroma of the bolillo, together with spicy meats and fresh vegetables, stacks up to be a sandwich that is hard to forget.
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Their most popular torta is the roasted pork loin (Torta Lomo) that comes with lettuce, tomato, and avocado. The Torta Especial has a lightly breaded steak, pork, grilled ham and cheese. For all of their sandwiches, they hollow out a bit of the bread so that the meat and toppings fit snugly. They also offer fajitas, flautas, menudo, horchata, Mexican Coke (real sugar, que bueno), tres leches, a special from-scratch cheesecake and a variety of other dishes.
And in the event that you recall sophomore year Spanish enough to translate "Tortas Las Tortugas" to "the turtle sandwiches," no te preocupes. It's simply a figurative reference. Raul Solis explains:
When we were younger living in Ocampo, Guanajauto, Mexico, we use to say, 'Vamos a las tortugas.' That means 'Let's go to the turtles,' because the shape of our bread looks like a turtle shell. All over Mexico there are a lot of torta restaurants with "Tortugas" in their name. So, we get people from different Mexican cities thinking we're the one from their hometown. I normally respond, "Right now we are. And thanks for the opportunity to serve you.
Tortas Las Tortugas just opened a second branch in Farmers Branch, at 14510 Josey Lane. The original is at 235 Centre Street just north of Jefferson.