Del Yaqui (Guadalupe, AZ)

One of the things that I enjoy about visiting the Southwest is that you can get a much broader menu of Mexican food choices. While a bit of determined scouting can yield some decent burrito joints and even taquerias up my way, if you are searching for, say, pozole or albondigas, you’re going to have to search pretty hard. But when I’m in Arizona, it’s actually pretty easy to chase some of these things down. In this particular case, I was looking for lunch after helping a friend clean out a fake server farm (Really! Backstory here, he bought the remains of the farm at auction), and decided that what I was really craving was a proper Mexican-style Torta. Since we were in the west Tempe/North Awatukee area, I had a plan: I was going to head up to the Guadalupe Mercado, a nice outdoor market at the corner of Guadalupe and Avenida del Yaqui in the small town of Guadalupe. There we found Del Yaqui in one corner of the Mercado.

The menu at Del Yaqui aims to offer up traditional Mexican cuisine made in the Sonoran tradition (as an aside, the Pascua Yaqui tribe has their own traditional cuisine in addition to Mexican food, and I’d love to try some authentic Yaqui food if someone can give me some pointers…), with perhaps a bit broader scope than most of the area Mexican cafes: in addition to having a broad array of burritos, tacos (including cabeza and lenque), rellenos, chimichanga, and combo places, they’ve also got a good selection of soups (pozole, menudo, and cocido de res) on this visit. But they also had exactly what I was craving at the moment, and that was a proper Mexican torta.

A Mexican torta is a sandhich made with a meat (Del Yaqui offers up a good dozen varieties; I went for the Al Pastor), topped with sliced avocado, refried beans, mayonnaise, cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, and lettuce, all piled onto a fresh-baked Mexican-style bun. Like the shell being an integral part of a taco, the bun is key to having a proper torta. A good torta is served up on a telera, an oblong roll that’s somewhat like a cross between a classic French baquette and a good hamburger bun. Soft and fluffy inside, and while not as crusty as a baguette, the crust is still substantial, providing a enough structure to hold in all the toppings. And, most importantly, like a good hamburger roll, it has to be lightly toasted. And I’ll have to say, that’s part of the charm and challenge of a good torta, eating it without it turning into too much of a glorious mess. But the torta at Del Yaqui was quite good: the al pastor meat flavorful, tender, but nicely crisped. Combined with all the toppings, you get a bit of crispiness and sweetness from the telera, a bit of nice meat flavor, and a good mix of flavor and texture from the various toppings. And hey, I managed to eat half of mine before it crumbled into a mess contained only by the paper wrapper. An elegant food, this is not.

Carol, meanwhile, went for a trio of tacos in a platter, going for lengue, carne asada, and carnitas tacos. She enjoyed all of these: each of the meats was nicely grilled and assembled with some fresh lime, onion, and cilantro on a nice double-stacked taco base. Add in some good refried beans and a nice Mexican rice (just starting to crisp), and some fresh-toasted peppers on the side, and this was a good platter.

Really, we both enjoyed Del Yaqui. I got to have a good, classic Torta, Carol got to have some good tacos, and we both got to enjoy a nice fresh aqua jamaica as well. I’ll definitely consider another trip to Del Yaqui on a future visit, since this is a relatively short drive from my parents’ place.

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