If you're looking for a truly great sandwich, head to Boyle Heights. More specifically, head to the Primera Taza Coffee House across from Mariachi Plaza, where co-owner Chuy Tovar and his wife, Rosalinda Hernandez, are making two kinds of lonches.
The catch? You can only get them about once a month.
Tovar says he makes the sandwiches when he can get a specific bread flown in from Guadalajara. It has to be this bread, or there will be no sandwiches.
"I gained like 15 pounds trying to find a bakery here," said Tovar, standing behind the counter at his small coffee shop. He never found one.
For the pork lonche, Tovar uses thick slabs of pan-seared pork loin, cooked at Corazon y Miel in Bell, Mexican crema, slices of tomato, a couple rings of red onion and a hot red salsa made by Hernandez. The torpedo-shaped sandwich is presented on a plate, dripping with the salsa, with a toothpick stuck in either side, in a feeble attempt to keep this monster together.
The crunchy bread gives way to a chewy core, creating the perfect shell for the tender meat and what seems like a ladle-full of spicy salsa and crema. Six napkins later, you are happily full, with a stain on your shirt you can wear as a badge of pride at the office.
Then there's the cheese lonche. Tovar is using that same bread, layered with avocado, crema, pickled jalapenos and panela cheese. But it's not just any panela. The cheese on this sandwich is softer and creamier than anything you'll find at a market.
That's because, Tovar says, he has it made by a vendor he found at a local farmers market. And the vendor's only making it for him, for these sandwiches. When asked if he can reveal the cheesemaker's name, he simply replied, smiling: "I can't."
Need a lonche and a bottle of Chaparritas? Call ahead, or check the shop's Instagram account to find out when they're available.
1850 1/2 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (323) 780-3923, www.primeratazacoffee.com.
I'm still hungry. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jenn_Harris_