Is That's It's Torta Cubana Really the World's Largest?

Categories: Dish Duel
ThatsIt_Sign.jpg

This sign has been taunting SFoodie for months, and not just because the adjective doesn't accord with the noun it modifies. We've been feeling the pull of the Mexican-style Cuban sandwich, which is The Thing of cubanos, exposed to cosmic rays while out on a routine space expedition and mutated beyond recognition. Where the Cuban cubano contains its mess ― melted cheese, pork times two, and pickles ― in a compact, pressed length of bread, the Mexican torta explodes. It's a Dagwood Bumstead torta, a Meat Lover's Special torta, as daunting as it is compelling.

We decided to compare the colossus with the legendary six-meat torta cubana from Boos Voni in the Excelsior, which is one of our favorite sources for carnitas tortas.

BoosVoni_Cubana.jpg
Matthew F./Yelp
Boos Voni's cubana (Benjamin not included. Or ours.)
Source: Tortas Boos Voni, 5170 Mission (at Geneva), 585-5880
Price: $9
Weight: 1 lb., 12 7/8 ounces

Six kinds of meat, advertises this torta shop: milanesa (breaded steak), spicy pork, chicken, ham, bacon, and hot dogs. And because the thought of six kinds of meat still leaves us peckish, the cooks add on a fried egg, avocado, onions, and mayonnaise ― all pressed between a floury telera bun, which is warmed just enough to crisp. The cooks wrap the torta so neatly in white paper that it's possible to make it all the way home ignorant of the brutal spectacle that awaits.

But the moment the sandwich emerges from its wrapping, all becomes clear. The torta cubana is so dense, so meaty, that its flavor collapses in on itself, and it is impossible to taste anything but a mash of meateggonion. If you are not able to share Boos Voni's torta cubana with a linebacker or pack of ravenous wolves, you may find yourselves, four bites in, lifting up the lid and picking out the bacon and hot dogs to snack on while you rummage through your refrigerator for something with a dietary fiber count greater than 0.

ThatsIt_Cubana-1.jpg
Jonathan K.
That's It. The torta cubana, we mean.
Source: That's It Market, 2699 Mission (at 23rd St.), 285-9833
Price: $10
Weight: 1 lb., 13 7/8 ounces

At That's It a few days later, the elaborate ritual of creating the cubana mesmerized SFoodie, since it took place in about nine square feet of kitchen space: frying the milanesa and hot dogs, warming the ham and bacon, cracking a few eggs onto the griddle and sprinkling chorizo into them. The cook carefully toasted a loaf of bread while layering the stack of meat, cheese onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled peppers, and sour cream, then deftly slid it between the two bread halves. A trio of Swedish skiers lined up behind us (well, they looked like they belonged on the Nordic slopes) were splitting a single sandwich, making us feel like Kirstie Alley on the rebound.

Indeed, That's It's torta cubana is one ounce heavier than Boos Voni's and about 50 percent bigger. Is it the world's biggest? We're not qualified to judge, but it's certainly the largest sandwich we've attempted to eat. It's also better than Boos Voni's because the many layers somehow seem more distinct ― the milanesa slightly less leathery, the chorizo-reddened omelet flavorful, the ham and bacon actually detectable. We might even have enjoyed the experience had we decided to eat in the car. The sour-cream-coated vegetables have been scrubbed off the seats by now, but we fear that after several days of July weather, the glob that dripped between the seat and the gearshift is going to make driving a very unpleasant experience.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @jonkauffman.

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Tortas Boos Voni

5170 Mission, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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