Tortas are typically no-frills sandwiches – street food, usually, I believe. A soft roll is filled with meat, a shmear of beans, and a mix of toppings like lettuce, tomato, onions, avocado, jalapeno, queso fresco, and mayo. Rick Bayless is known for contemporary Mexican cuisine that catapulted him to the status of Top Chef Master and helped him launch a line of sauces, frozen meals, and fast casual restaurant chains. He’s a big name in the Chicago scene and has brought his talents to NYC to open Tortazo, which is his more contemporary take on that torta.

I started with the chile and garlic peanuts because I wanted something cute to snack on. These are a perfect party snack and are far more addictive than peanuts ever are. Highly recommend as an alternative to a chips and salsa starter. The menu looked inventive (butternut squash and goat cheese on a tlayuda, packed salads, etc.) but I had to get a torta since that’s the restaurant’s specialty. It seems like all the other menu items exist more to appease diners who join their friends but don’t want to eat a sandwich. I went with the chipotle chicken and thought it was a really good sandwich. A nice kick but not too intense, plenty of avocado, and an interesting sub of poblanos for jalapenos. It was very good but certainly felt more trendy than authentic – not necessarily a bad thing.

I was a bit wary of a restaurant by a celebrity chef who, at this point, must be so out of touch, but I found myself really enjoying my meal…though I’ll admit that sometimes street food can just be street food. No need to gussy it up. Tortazo just (like this week) opened a second location right by my office in Times Square, and I imagine it will be nice to pop in for a sandwich instead of the standard midtown salad. That said, I feel like a meal at anyplace deemed “fast casual” should top out at $15 and this creeps well into pricier territory.