La Vida Torta

Manny's offers a Mexican version of Minnesota comfort food

At first, I wasn't in love with the things; I was thinking they lacked personality. But after a bunch of visits, the sandwiches have really grown on me. It might have been that after a trio of visits, the staff and I passed through the gringos-are-to-be-treated-gingerly barrier, or it might have been that I started requesting tortas with extra pickled jalapeños (they're better that way), or it might have been simply that I made that necessary junk-food reptile-brain leap from not knowing what to expect to having an expectation fulfilled. Like I said, I dunno. What I can say is that, over time, I have become delighted with and addicted to the things, and I suspect much of south Minneapolis is sure to follow. Especially because they seem to improve after a few minutes in a bag in the car--the flavors and sauce mingle irresistibly. I can also report that the best tortas at Manny's are the vegetarian ($4.95), the Manny's Special ($6.95), and the Cubana ($6.50).

The vegetarian is up there with the best vegetarian indulgences around: French bread is divided into cold and hot halves, the cold side filled with bright-green slices of fresh avocado, sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickled jalapeños, and the chipotle mayonnaise, the hot side smeared with refried beans and a big pile of sautéed mushrooms, and the two tiers divided by a melting layer of Swiss cheese. Whoa. At $4.95, it almost worries me, as I can so easily visualize late-night disaster: every car in the south metro with a "What if the military had to have a bake sale?" bumper sticker crashing into its political brother. You'll wish your other car were a broom!

The Manny's Special is basically the vegetarian with extra sautéed tomatoes, sautéed onions, a thin, marinated, breaded steak, and a couple of pieces of ham. It's a massively filling, rich, and complex thing, with enough salt and heft to stand up to the fresh salad-like elements. The Cubana contains ham, pork loin, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, jalapenos, and the chipotle mayonnaise; it's big, sweet, plump, and provocatively lush. I tried pretty much everything else on the menu, and I recommend staying away from the too-plain turkey or chicken tortas. And I thought the chorizo and egg version wasn't as greasy and overblown as I'd like it to have been. My dream is that when the place really gets rolling--and I can't but think there will be lines out the door as soon as word gets out--Manny's will add some more dishes, maybe something fried? Maybe something with salsa? I don't know.

Say hello to your new favorite late-night snack: Manny's tortas
Bill Kelley
Say hello to your new favorite late-night snack: Manny's tortas

Location Info


Manny's Tortas

1515 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Powderhorn

I did find some of Manny's expert catering tricks downright unnerving; like tiramisu that makes you look around for the wedding party, and caesar salad that says, "Oh no, my boss is trying to make me feel better about losing my lunch hour by giving me this free goddamn salad." Sometimes the soup of the day at this really, truly, authentically Mexican restaurant is the really way too-authentically Minnesotan Chicken Wild Rice. Which both horrifies and entrances me. Imagine it: Sometime this winter, snow will be pouring down like the froth of Hiawatha Falls, plows will be scraping up the street, rattling the buildings, making those vibrating noises that sound like the groaning of giant, beached whales. At that moment, you will have the opportunity to shove a little Mexican lime in the neck of a bottle of Pacifica, bring a spoonful of Chicken Wild Rice soup to your lips, and contemplate the specificity of a universe that has led to the only-here, only-now moment of Manny's Tortas.

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