July 18 2016 12:38 PM

It’s all about the tortas de lomo at legendary Tijuana stand

Tortas El Turco
Photo by Michael A. Gardiner

EXT. Avenida Revolución, Tijuana—Night

WIDE SHOT of the East side of Avenida Revolución looking South. A WOMAN is walking toward the intersection at 5th carrying a large handbag.

MEDIUM SHOT of the Tortas El Turco stand from the POV of the WOMAN.

CLOSE UP of DANIEL PEREZ-PEREZ through the counter window, his back to the WOMAN as he scrapes the flattop. He is cleaning up for the night. So is she.

WOMAN (off screen)
Daniel. Look at me!

TWO SHOT of DANIEL and the WOMAN on either side of the counter. The WOMAN reaches into her massive purse and removes a high caliber HANDGUN. She points it at DANIEL, whose eyes widen noticeably.

DANIEL
What are you doing? What the..

E/C/U of the WOMAN, a wry smile curls her lips.

WOMAN
I've come to take what's mine, Daniel.

CLOSE UP of DANIEL, fear arcing across his face.

DANIEL
No. The stand...the shops...

WOMAN
They're mine, Daniel. Mine. You gave them to me and you gave me the recipe.

TWO SHOT of DANIEL and the WOMAN, who fires the HANDGUN. DANIEL staggers backward grabbing his chest where the bullet entered, blood oozing around his hand. He falls, dead.

***

That's probably not an accurate depiction of how Tortas El Turco founder Daniel Perez-Perez was murdered in 1983 by his second wife. It is, however, roughly how a Mexican telenovela might portray it; overacting, overwriting and all.

Perez's wife soon landed in jail and before long the legendary chain collapsed. A decade later, though, Perez's first wife revealed she, too, had the recipe and gave it to former neighbor Louis Fitch. Thus was Tortas El Turco (Blvd. Fundadores #8490, Tijuana) reborn under the original name and with that original recipe.

The thing to have at Tortas El Turco is the torta de lomo de res, the steamed beef tenderloin sandwich that's where the place began. Actually, it began at the corner of Avenida Revolución and 5th, with TJ-style hot dogs. Perez was using the hot dog water to steam a beef sandwich his (first) wife had made him when a customer asked for the same. The cart's dog-torta ratio blew up.

The torta de lomo is a simple affair with a direct statement: a delicious, sloppy, tasty, tender beef sandwich. The especial version adds ham and cheese, a nod toward a torta cubana. The result, though, doesn't read as the sequence of distinct flavors as does a cubana. The steam brings those flavors wonderfully together.

El Turco also offers a ham-and-cheese torta as well as flautitas de lomo—think beef tenderloin taquitos—and fries. But why? If any food is going to pass your lips at El Turco other than the tortas de lomo, let it be the classic Mexican pickled carrots and chiles (serranos here). The acidity and the heat are perfect accompaniments to the tortas de lomo.

As much as I love the camp and drama of a good Mexican telenovela, El Turco's tortas stand on their own. They're almost as legendary as they are good. Still, do you think I could get a telenovela development deal?

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