There are many things to take notice of in the case of a cemita. One of the most obvious, but rarely satisfactory, is the sesame seed egg roll. My latest inclinations have been pointing towards bakeries as a likely source for greatness. Also obvious is the subject of the sandwich like beef or chicken cutlet in it’s likelihood of being culled from a freezer or breaded in a kitchen or a factory. These subjects, milanesa de res (beef) and milanesa de pollo (chicken), are appropriately the best to fill your cemita with. Putting that plane of meat inside the contraption holds the entire sandwich together nicely. In general, I would leave anything chopped for warm comfort of taco shells.
Other ingredients to tune your tastebuds to are basic checkmarks like papalo herb, avocado, Oaxacan quesillo (stringy) cheese and a potent pepper (usually chipotle) perhaps in sauce. Once in a while there are surprise add-ons and of course there are the intangibles that cross you over to love territory.
If you’ve been to the Jackson Heights train station after dark, you’ve probably heard the Gallo Giro taco cart chopping their meat in the window. Months ago, I came across the mothership and based on their great reputation, I thought it would be a promising stop in my search for the cemita – an item not on their mobile location.
Tacos El Gallo Giro (translation: Cock Twirl)
41-06 Junction Blvd
Corona, NY 11368
Their fried chicken breast stood out the most for me. It was like something torn off a chicken, rather than the usual flat fillet from a plastic sack in the freezer. Here it was actual pieces of chicken. Imagine that. Two layers of it.
The other outstanding ingredient was the roll. It was soft and shiny and flaked on the curves. It was a bit chewy and a bit buttery. This is not a bakery, but I was fooled. That roll was everything I could ask for.
The bottom of the inside was spread with a light avocado, onion, and herb sauce. This is new to me, but not as respected as when the ingredients are whole and seperate. Maybe this saves space? Whichever reason, the papalo herb and avocado were indescernable other than texturally. On to cheese, there was either a hard and a creamy cheese or the string cheese melted unto itself. That is not the most concerting, but it tasted fine yet simple. Additionally, there was a jalepeno, light bean spread, lettuce and tomato. The mention of these does not warrant more conversation, they were there and did the miniumum service required.
and some competition…
Bella Puebla #2
37-64 90th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Bella Puebla #2 (not to be confused with Mi Bella Puebla II) took my cemita search up a notch with the addition of a slice of ham. It barely added flavor, but it was appreciated and my mind widened. They also pass the herb around generously, but with a potency I question. Was it oregano? Add to that pulled cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato and bean spread, and a breaded then fried slice of beef and you have a passable example of a cemita. Not better than Gallo Giro though.
Massive cemitas in Mexico