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A Sandwich a Day: Classic Torta at Fresa's Chicken al Carbon in Austin

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[Photograph: Meredith Bethune]

Fresa's Chicken al Carbon is a riff on the Mexican drive-thru chicken joints popular in Austin. Launched by a group of successful local restaurateurs, Fresa's sells take-away meals of beans and rice, housemade tortillas, and whole chickens grilled over charcoal. It stands out from the pack by sourcing pasture-raised birds from a local farm.

Fresa's extensive menu is also noteworthy: they offer aguas frescas, homemade ice creams, and tortas made with their pulled chicken. I ordered the Classic Torta ($8) from the drive-thru and unwrapped a submarine roll instead of the round bread that I associate with tortas. But when I bit into it, the bread had the familiar chewiness of a freshly baked bolillo. The moist chicken was flavored aggressively with smoke and black pepper, complemented by thick-cut grilled onions and a generous dollop of guacamole. The queso fresco disappeared into the chipotle mayonnaise, but the spread added more smokiness, lots of sweetness, and a little kick. I still desperately missed the spicy sliced jalapeƱos found on more traditional tortas.

This sandwich was truly excellent, and I would happily eat it again, but calling it a "classic torta" is a misnomer.

Fresa's Chicken al Carbon

915 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin TX 78703 (map)
512-428-5077; fresaschicken.com

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