Mexican Sandwiches at La Guadalupana

No, it's not a torta. This is a cemita, a traditional Pueblan sandwich that's different from the omnipresent torta in several important ways:

  • A cemita traditionally comes with avocado, raw onions, salsa roja, quesillo cheese and your choice of meat - nothing else.
  • A cemita comes on a hamburger-style bun with sesame seeds that's sweeter and fluffier than the crusty, French bread-style bolillo that holds together a torta.
And while tortas will always hold a place in our heart, the cemita is our favorite Mexican sandwich. The problem is that they're somewhat difficult to find in our torta-saturated town. Luckily, that's where La Guadalupana comes in.

La Guadalupana (2109 Dunlavy) has three amazing things going for it (besides its location in a Mexican-starved subsection of River Oaks/Montrose): service that makes you feel like you're a part of the Diaz family, freshly-baked bread every morning and the fact that owner Trancito Diaz -- a native of Puebla -- used to be a pastry chef at the Houston Country Club. This means that not only are the fresh breads, buns and rolls amazing, the desserts are too.

But back to the cemitas. The sandwich at La Guadalupana deviates ever so slightly from the norm by introducing a few additional elements to the mixture.

Green, leafy lettuce (not the nearly white shredded crap), a spread of refried beans, another spread of mayo and thinly-sliced tomatoes make up the first few additions. In this way, this version of a cemita more closely resembles a torta / deli sandwich hybrid. But the final addition is what sets La Guadalupana's semita apart: a thick spread of chipotle paste, with the skins of the chipotle peppers still intact and present for texture.

Add your choice of meat (beef is the most traditional option) to the voluptuous, curled shavings of quesillo that occupy a large portion of the sandwich, and this is truly a magnificent specimen. It's spicy as hell, but you won't be able to stop eating it. And once you make it through one half, you'll quickly realize that if you finish the other enormous half, you're not going to need dinner. This inexpensive lunchtime treat will easily tide you over until breakfast.

But that's okay. Just come back the next morning, and La Guadalupana can set you up with an almond croissant, a breakfast torta, a glass of sweet jamaica and cinnamon-tinged coffee for a morning meal that just might beat the cemita as the best food on the menu.


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Katharine Shilcutt