Factory Tamal Takes Territories to New Territories

2021, Mar 27

Today was a scintillating, hot mess in the East Village, and I came upon Factory Tamal just moments away from hopping on a CitiBike and making my dramatic escape back to the west side.

The prospect of tamales pulled me in, but the torta menu kept me engaged. Conceptually, tortas have everything I want in a cheat meal — fluffy bread, cheese, meat and spice — but rarely do these Mexican specialties make their way into my Saturday rotation. Call it a supply problem — tortas are not quite as common as burritos and tacos in downtown Manhattan — or just blame my basic tastes for pizza and burgers. Either way, today was as good as any to give tortas their fair shake.

I ordered the Mr. Longaniza sandwich, which comes with black beans, avocado, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, white cheddar cheese and longaniza sausage. My only hesitation was the sausage; I was already thirsty, and fearful that eating a sausage sandwich would be like chewing on a bouillon cube.

To counter my thirst, I added an Aqua de Jamaica, a.k.a. hibiscus iced tea, as well as a single Rajas con Queso tamale. The ‘con queso’ was the selling point for the tamale; as always, I need me some cheese on Saturdays.

I heartily guzzled the hibiscus tea while waiting for the torta and tamale. The Mr. Longaniza, when it did arrive, was a pretty sandwich — layers of black beans, green avocado and lettuce, white cheese and intense red longaniza all vied for space on the ciabatta roll, wrapped in fake vintage newspaper clipping.

Contrary to my fears, the longaniza flavor was subtle, almost reminiscent of a spreadable ‘nduja with little buttons of sausage pocketed throughout. Between the avocado, cheese and a thin layer of mayonnaise, the torta was appropriately fatty and moist; I was unsure I’d be able to finish the whole sandwich in one sitting.

The tamale served as a halftime show for the torta; unpacking the corn husk wrapping and digging under the corn flour dough, I was greeted by a slimy spear of jalapeno, pale ring of onion, fat tomato wedge, and tube of mozzarella cheese.

The mistake was mine; I’m a meat-eater, and shouldn’t have ordered a vegetarian tamale. Still, personal biases against shoving steamed vegetables in my mouth aside, the Raja con Queso was a tasty snack. The mozzarella would have served better if it were melted over and around the vegetables, rather than standing alone like string cheese shoved into a healthy school lunch, but I still managed to get a few integrated bites of dough, cheese and veggies.

I could see tamalas as great training food, like for 5Ks and half-marathons — and races are starting again, baby!

To my surprise, I finished the other half of the torta and still had room for three small chocolates at Casse-Cou, the plant-based chocolate shop next door.

The Mr. Longanize torta deserves a 4 out of 5. Factory Tamal has convinced me of their sandwich-making prowess, and I will almost certainly be back for one of their egg sandwiches, served with ‘special sauce.’ Que misterioso!

The tamale gets a 3.5 out of 5. My advice — take or leave it — would be to up the cheese level on that thing. I want cheese in the jalapeno, cheese melted on the onion ring, cheese laced into the dough. Really, most of my scores below 4 could be ameliorated if restaurants would simply add more cheese.

Take note, restaurateurs of New York! In total, a 3.75 out of 5 for Factory Tamal; great torta, good tamale, needs more cheese :)

Until next time.