Forget Taco Bell: The Fast and Portable Gorditas at Doña Tota are Great
It was early Saturday morning, and I had a lot lined up for the day, so I was looking for a fast portable breakfast. Nothing seems more fast and portable to me then stuffed pastries, preferably with eggs or meat or both. And one of my favorite all time stuffed pastries are gorditas; tacos' overlooked cousin. Some may be surprised to hear that gorditas were not invented by Taco Bell, so delete the image of that pita bread taco disaster from your brain. I'm talking about thick corn cakes made with masa that are split open and filled with all sorts of steamy stewed goodness. So where do I go for not only gorditas, but breakfast gorditas? I trust the namesake and head to Doña Tota Gorditas in Oak Cliff. They're a Mexican chain with over 200 stores in Mexico, and if they've jumped the border, I figure they've got to be doing something right.
Photo by Alexander Nham Pocket perfection
Located on Jefferson Street, just a few blocks south of the culinary goliaths on Davis, Doña Tota occupies a small corner storefront. Driving there I felt like I was entering little Tijuana. There was a blur of bright colors out of the corner of my eye, and all the signs had apparently been converted into Spanish. I pulled in behind the restaurant and walked in from the back. My initial thought was that this place was vaguely reminiscent of Chipotle; a kind of Mexican Chipotle (weird).
Between an exposed ceiling and a concrete floor, red and maize covered the rest of the restaurant. It was bright and clean, a large easy-to-read menu hung above the cash register, and even the staff was all wearing uniforms. However, the staff wasn't a bunch of twenty something hipsters, they were all elder Mexican women who looked like they could be somebody's mother, aunt, or grandmother.
I stepped up to the register and the cashier automatically started speaking Spanish, I responded with "good morning," and she seamlessly transitioned to English with a smile. I looked over the mouth watering breakfast gordita offerings and finally decided on the machacado con huevo (seasoned dried beef with scrambled eggs) and the carnitas. At the last second I added a chicharron gordita, I couldn't help myself.
I took a seat and waited for my order, behind the counter I saw a contraption that looked like it was from a machining factory. One of the women flipped it on and it started spitting out perfectly circular masa dough. The dough circles were thrown onto the flat top grill to cook, after which they were cut open and filled with what I had ordered.
All three of the gorditas were delicious, and they probably would have tasted even better if I hadn't devoured them like a rabid animal.
The large pork pieces in the carnitas gordita were tooth tender, the green salsa they had been simmering in was a perfect blend of savory and heat. The beef in the machacado con huevo was firm but yielding, a nice contrast in texture to the soft eggs. Not only did the previous drying of the beef result in the interesting texture, it also had an intense and spiced flavor. The chicharron (my favorite) had nice big chunks of fat and meat that were stewed in the same green salsa as the carnitas. The masa dough itself was thick with a crisp exterior, but still retained its tenderness. It had that rich corn taste which reminded me of great handmade corn tortillas.
I looked up after I finished eating to find all three women glancing over, curiously waiting to find out if I had enjoyed the food. They were all delighted when I assured them I had. Once they knew I was hooked, they told me to come back to try the mole, apparently it's the best item on the menu. I headed back to my car after the quick stop, warmed up on that chilly morning, ready for the rest of the day.