>> La Fortaleza | Eat the World NYC

25 November 2019

La Fortaleza


Having walked by both branches of Passaic's beloved La Fortaleza many times over the past ten years or more, the establishment has always been on the to do list but unfortunately that box was never checked. These shops put cemita right in their name, claiming excellence in their execution of the Pueblan sandwich. Photographs and peeks inside the doors always show the other part of La Fortaleza experience: color and over the top kitsch.

What finally tipped the scale and locked in a visit was a look at their presence on social media, which by far and away favors another location in Garfield. This spot seems to ramp up the color, add nightly live music, and a full bar to the mix. The menu might actually be a bit longer, but they still give proper focus to those giant cemitas.

But first thing's first, do spend a little time in the bar area, especially during the daylight hours when light gives all the bright colors inside their proper due and some happy specials are available on weekdays. Giant margaritas can be ordered in many flavors or original, and when asked to be served in their house cantarito de barro (above), you get to take home the souvenir cup.

The good music rotation is on point even before the nightly live performances start, so you start to settle into your environment even if you had not planned on staying. Even when you have already eaten lunch the appetizers start to sound appealing. Order the guacamole ($8, below) if only for the chance to have the ceramic Volkswagen Beetle arrive filled with it. It took a few more limes and dumping in a bit from the various hot sauces on the table to give it life, but it was not the reason for this visit so it can slide.

After a few more rounds and time enough to feel like eating again, the list of cemitas was perused and offered many selections. This sandwich gets its name from the sesame-encrusted bread that is used, and on the east coast is often times a much better vehicle for meats if you cannot find handmade tortillas. The Pueblan bakeries and restaurants like this never disappoint.

These gigantic beauties range only from $9 to $11, really a steal for how much quality food arrives. The cemita de carnitas ($9, below) uses maciza cuts of the pork, probably the easiest for anyone to eat. All lean meat and no guts or skin, the pork is cooked Michoacán-style, with the addition of avocado, a mountain of quesillo, and a very important and unseen chipotle pepper.

The homemade salsas at La Fortaleza also really stand out. The menu says this sandwich is paired with a spicy salsa verde, and it is undeniably wonderful, but the salsa roja here is the real star of the show. It is made with habañeros and packs a swift slap in the face for each drop you apply. Sweat was forming almost instantly, but the heat is rewarded with a deep and rich palate underneath. If only they jarred it for purchase.

After this cemita was enjoyed, it was great knowing the Garfield branch was just as interested in what comes out of their kitchen as the Passaic locations. With a brand new spot in Clifton as well, La Fortaleza is creating a little empire in this section of New Jersey.

La Fortaleza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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