The first time I came to Don Pepe, it was a Saturday afternoon and things were tense. The interior was crowded with people ordering fruit shakes in the front and customers filled all six tables in the rear, more milled about waiting on orders. When I ordered a torta to go, a hurried man told me it would take 45 minutes. I was not sure of the true status of all orders pending, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and imagined their delivery phone must be ringing off the hook. I said "no thank you" and backed away, hungry for one of their famous tortas a la plancha, which are grilled on a metal plate after preparation.
On weekday afternoons, the scene is much calmer and you can step right up to the friendly guys working in the back and place your order. Since everything is cooked to order, still expect to wait about ten minutes even when the place is empty.
The "official" list of tortas on the board is numbered up to 35, but hand-written additions are added on the counter, including a few breakfast options, making this a tempting place at all hours. Most on the list are $8 and $9, a couple bucks more than a normal torta in this city, but prepare for two meals as what you are given is definitely worth the money. I have never walked away without asking for my second half to be wrapped up to go.
Everything seems unassuming when you receive your sandwich, all wrapped up neat and tidy, but make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand. The plastic basket fits the oval-shaped beauty perfectly, but is useless for catching your scraps once things start getting ugly.
It will not be this neat for long.
One of my most recommended options here is the aptly named torta de la casa ($9, below), a dream made of pork. The thin spicy strips of carne enchilada and bulk of pernil inside make an excellent combination. The slice of ham in between the two is basically inconsequential, and it is not everyday that you can say that bacon also does not have much overall effect in the taste spectrum here. There are so many delicious tastes inside though that it is not noticed so much, especially given its location so close to the jalapeños. All of the tortas (unless specified in some special varieties), come with these peppers and avocado, tomato, and plenty of quesillo, the stringy white Mexican cheese originating from Oaxaca that usually adorns the sandwich.
Some of my other recommendations are below:
Torta ranchera ($9)
Torta tobasco ($8)
Torta arabe ($7)
Torta mixta ($8)
And do not forget that the place is not just about tortas, they also have an equally, if not more, popular fresh juice stand in the front that serves very interesting concoctions including spicy smoothies, hangover cures, and green power juices.
Ok, I am ready to anoint this man the king of tortas. All hail the king.