As you may know, I rather violently shy away from writing about Mexican eateries for this space, because this city is positively loony with them, large and small. It seems like the saturation point was reached many, many years before CityBeat even started this column, and the element of surprise is compromised because the food's routinely so good. La Mesa, however, is a different matter as a review locale—it's mildly remote, it's about 1/25th the size of San Diego and it's become a bona fide travel destination on the strength of the simple fact that I used to live there.
It's also got La Torta Café, a very cool restaurant that specializes in Mexican-style sandwiches. “Sandwiches” is not to be confused with the workaday, fillings-slapped-between-two-pieces-of-bread items you might find somewhere else. La Torta prepares its delicious sammies a stratospheric 39 different ways, featuring the signature torpedo loaf that's so crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Garnishes are a big deal in the torta world, too, and La Torta won't let you forget it. Its avocado torta is piled to the brim with onion, cheese and tomato; in addition to the generous portions of chicken and ham, its Hawaiian entry sports a pineapple wedge the size of a football. Both items are $7.25, and you'll pay roughly $7 to $8 for everything else, such as an array of quesadillas. There's a kids menu, too, and you might want to ask about the 99-cent specials. Touches like that have kept this place in awards dating to 1998.
La Torta is located at 8356 Allison Ave. in La Mesa, and it's open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; the phone is 619-741-6230. Tell 'em Marty sent ya, and you'll probably get a rueful look for your trouble. I said La Mesa is a destination because I once lived there, but I never hinted that my rep among the locals is favorable.