New Tortas at Ninfa's Hardly Torturous

...except, I guess, if you ate all three at once. Then, you might be hurting.

First, let's get something straight. I don't, or didn't, go to The Original Ninfa's for burgers. If I venture out to Navigation, it's for fajitas, tacos al pastor, or maybe the seafood enchiladas.

But these times, they are a-changin'. After tasting the three new burgers from the tortas menu at Ninfa's, I'm questioning my usual rule about not ordering dishes that are an explicit deviation from the restaurant's dominant cuisine (re: fried rice at a pizza place).

I was even skeptical of Ninfa's fajita burger, which has consistently received accolades. I chalked up its presence to Ninfa's attempt to placate the random diner averse to Mexican food and prematurely dismissed it as probably at best mediocre.

Well, I seriously underestimated Chef Alex Padilla's versatility, creativity, and ambition. His success with the fajita burger (completely understandable, once I actually tried it) inspired more inventions. Enter the three new torta creations: the Al Pastor, the Puerca, and the Chicken Adobo. All three are commendable, all three benefit from rich, egg-heavy buns courtesy of Slow Dough Bakery, and all three require two hands to eat. But let's start with the one that made me forget Ninfa's was known for their fajitas.

The Al Pastor burger is a plump mound of juicy pork laced with a medley of tingly spices I can't identify but want to bottle in a fragrance. Topped with juicy grilled pineapple, onions, pickled jalapenos, chipotle mayo, and a delightfully drippy coat of Oaxaca cheese, the Al Pastor balances flavors of sweet citrus, creamy dairy and spicy pork to produce one decadent stacked sandwich.

A close second (and here you'll see my pork bias) was the Puerco, a saltier, heartier chorizo patty redolent with the botanical tastes of avocado, cilantro, and pickles and brightened with the sharp chipotle mayonnaise. I'm naturally partial to anything resembling aioli/mayo/"fancy sauce," but this mixture was so good on both the Al Pastor and the Puerco, I almost asked for an extra jar to take home.

The Adobo exceeded my expectations for a chicken sandwich, which, admittedly, are quite low. I've never dug the grilled chicken breast-bread-lettuce-tomato-some sort of mayo combo, until I tried Ninfa's version. The tender chicken breast is all fine and good, but it's the piquant adobo marinade (heavy on the oregano) that makes the meat especially delectable. Strips of apple-wood smoked bacon and a sprinkling of grilled mushrooms don't hurt either.

Accompanying all three tortas is a refreshing well of pickled carrots and a few large-and-in-charge potato wedges whose crispy spiced exterior is only enhanced with a dip in the house-made roasted pepper ketchup. And though the tortas trifecta is technically only available until the end of July, Chef Alex assured me one or more will migrate onto the permanent menu. But why take your chances?

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Joanna O'Leary