Here, Eat This

Houston's Best Sandwiches: All Hail Mexico's Deli, a.k.a. Torta Heaven

The Number 7, the Mexico's Deli take on a Cubano, was my choice...this visit.
The Number 7, the Mexico's Deli take on a Cubano, was my choice...this visit. Photo by Jeff Balke
We are in search of Houston's best sandwiches because we love sandwiches and we love Houston!

When I walked into Mexico's Deli (2374 S. Dairy Ashford) looking for another one of Houston's great torta discoveries, I was confronted by a massive chalkboard wall of recipes. I had first heard about the menu wall from a review written in this publication way back in 2007 by former food critic Robb Walsh. It's still there.

I asked one of the friendly ladies behind the counter what was the most popular. She began to rattle off numbers and explain to me what they were. There was No. 24, the Lomito, a South American steak sandwich with two eggs and jalapeño mayo. Also, the No. 9, their version of a milanesa with breaded sirloin, ham and melted cheese. Then, she hit on No. 7, their take on a classic Cubano.

While I waited, I gawked at the huge board filled mostly with tortas. I knew they had them, but my goodness. Mexico's Deli is no stranger to Houston food folk. We gave it Best Torta back in 2009 and even wrote about their Crema de Chile Poblano soup. Like all the best sandwich places in Houston, it is tucked inside a little strip center — we complain a lot about strip malls, but they sure do produce good sandwich shops.

click to enlarge The massive chalkboard menu is filled with more than two dozen varieties of torta. - PHOTO BY JEFF BALKE
The massive chalkboard menu is filled with more than two dozen varieties of torta.
Photo by Jeff Balke
It could be argued that the torta, alongside the Vietnamese bánh mì, is as important to Houston's culinary scene as the hamburger. They come on huge oblong rolls of talera bread and are typically dressed with refried beans, avocado, onion and tomato, sometime sour cream.

When my  No.7 arrived, my first thought was, "No way I'm eating this whole thing." It's massive, sliced in half and stacked like a club, though you eat it one half at a time. It had the traditional dressings minus the sour cream, which was perfectly fine because this thing was rich, creamy and as filling as I'd imagined.

Roast pork loin can often come out flavorless and dry. Not here. This was well seasoned and juicy to the point of dripping out the back on every bite. The thin, sliced ham added a hint of saltiness and the white and yellow American cheese only added to the richness.

It came served with pickled jalapeño and carrot as well as a really hearty tomato-based "Mexican noodle soup." That's what they called it anyway.

As expected, I grabbed a to-go container from the counter before leaving to pack up the second half of the sandwich. I probably could have eaten it, but then I would be miserable...and not have a half to enjoy later.

Around the dining room, I noticed several other varieties of torta being consumed with reckless abandon. They all looked insanely good. As a result, my only recommendation is to go to Mexico's Deli frequently and try as many as you can. That's my plan.

If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke