Recently heard about "the best cemitas in Portland" from one of my Mexican vendors. He gave me sketchy directions, so while on the westside Friday, I decided to search it out.
They serve only one thing -- cemitas -- with various fillings:
- cueritos (slow cooked pork skin)
- milanesa de res (chicken fried steak)
- milanesa de pollo (chicken fried chicken)
- queso de puerco (head cheese)
- jamon (ham)
- quesillo (Mexican mozz)
- pierna enchilada (pork leg in red chile sauce)
- carne asada (grilled beef)
- pata de res (cow foot)
You can also combine any of these together. Prices start at $6.
If you're not familiar with a cemita poblana, it's the iconic sandwich of Puebla, consisting of various meats, quesillo, avocado, chipotles cooked in a sauce sweetened with piloncillo, and usually papalo -- a pungent herb -- on a round bun, sometimes topped with sesame seeds. Generally cemita bread has a little bit of crustiness to it, yet isn't too flaky, and a light sweetness. It's soft inside, but should have enough structure to hold the sandwich pretty firmly. I can't think of any bread here that truly compares.
On my last visit to Puebla, some friends who live there took me to what they consider the best cemitas joint in all of Puebla, in the Mercado El Carmen. Here are videos:
This wasn't THAT good, but it was still a damn good sandwich. In fact, it was good enough that the leftover half I took to my friend later that night was declared "even better than that other place's torta" -- that other place being La Catrina and that other torta being the Cubana. I won't make that proclamation, but I will actually get to the sandwich in question now.
I ordered a pretty standard combination, jamon and milanesa. This was $8 and enormous. I could barely get my mouth around it and could only finish half.
It was tasty, too. They didn't have any papalo, which was a little disappointing, especially since I know there's a supplier in Hillsboro, but also because several of the markets have it this time of year. It's a acrid herb, though, almost a cross between epazote and cilantro, so a lot of people don't like it. The cheese wasn't especially good quesillo, probably just regular mozzarella, and the bread, while decent quality, wasn't really a full-on Puebla-style cemita, but it's probably the best they can do here.
With all those caveats in mind, again, this was tasty. The milanesa was tender and lightly breaded. The jamon was just supermarket ham, but added a nice sweetness. There was a generous layer of avocado off-set by a even more dominant layer of sweet chipotles. They ask if you want chipotles or not. You do. They pretty much make the sandwich and it wouldn't be balanced without them. The bread held up surprisingly well.
I showed the pictures to Rosi, my cook from Puebla who lives out that way, and she was familiar with it. She says the pierna enchilada is the best choice. I'm thinking that and milanesa next time, perhaps.
Cemitas Poblanas Tepeaca
620 W Main St
Hillsboro, OR 97123
Not sure on the hours. I had heard that it's only weekends, starting Friday. But I forgot to ask.
Cemitas Poblanas Tepeaca >>>