WEST LOOP — Are cemitas and tortas the same thing?
Sandwiched between doughnut shop Glazed & Infused and Publican Quality Meats, Cemitas Puebla Fulton Market opened at 817 W. Fulton Market earlier this month.
And when the West Loop lunch set stops by the new Fulton Market shop, owner Tony Anteliz, Chicago's resident cemita expert, wants them to know exactly what they're ordering.
"Hands down — it's the No. 1 question I am asked," Anteliz said. And he usually responds: "A hero, a grinder, a Philly cheesesteak, a sub, are these the same thing?"
The easiest answer — a cemita is a specific type of a torta, like a cheesesteak is a take on the American sandwich. Is a cheesesteak a sandwich? Sure ... but the cheesesteak moniker gives the sandwich meaning, Anteliz said.
Like the Philadelphia cheesesteak, the cemitas originates in a certain place — Puebla, Mexico. Growing up in Humboldt Park, Anteliz was sent to spend summers with relatives in the east central Mexican city.
Also like the Philly cheesesteak, there are ingredients every cemita has in common. There are slight variations, but the real deal is made up of sesame seed bread, similar in consistency to brioche; a pounded-thin then breaded cut of steak or pork loin; avocado; a chipotle pepper sauce; and an "abundance of Oaxacan cheese," Anteliz said.
"It's a torta made in a certain way," he said. "There are Tex-Mex tortas made in border towns topped with everything under the moon — lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream. In other Mexican regions, a torta is just beans, meat, salsa."
West Loopers can try a traditional cemita, the cemita Milanesa, for $7.95 at Cemitas Puebla Fulton Market. The pig-three-ways Atomica cemita, containing breaded pork loin, ham and marinated grilled pork, is $11.
Anteliz said there were "many, many times" in the early days at the original Cemitas Puebla in Humboldt Park that he closed the shop selling less than two dozen cemitas. After a feature on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and opening the Fulton Market location this month, he estimates he sells 1,100 on a weekend day between the two restaurants.
"I've been humbled a million, million times, but the sweet ain't as good without the bitter," the 38-year-old said.
Catch Anteliz at 6 p.m. Tuesday when he will be competing at the Battle of Fulton Market: La Sirena Clandestina vs. Cemitas Puebla as part of the Burgers, Bourbon and Beer guest chef lineup at Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market.
Cemitas Puebla Fulton Market, which has counter service and seating for 40, is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
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