Torta de MilanesaTorta de Milanesa at La Victoria Taqueria

UPDATED, Nov. 4: It snowed in Arlington on Sunday, Nov. 2, and my mind is floating away on the balmy breezes of a beach town in Mexico. Veracruz, Mexico is on the Gulf Coast, north of Oaxaca and west of Tabasco. Street food there is a tradition and an art.

Alex Barrientos, Arlington resident and owner of La Victoria Taqueria, the Mexican street-food restaurant across from the Regent Theater, at 12 Medford St., is from Veracruz,and he’s brought us his memories. I had a nice chat with him, and these are some of them.

Alex combines dishes the Barrientos family shared over the Sunday supper table with the grab-and-go favorites that locals and tourists clamber for in his home town. His first La Victoria Taqueria is the beloved Beverly spot with a dedicated following. Alex’s North Shore customers are always recalling, misty-eyed, their favorite taco trucks in Southern California or torta stands in Puerto Vallarta. He knew a food-loving town like Arlington would be a perfect choice for his next location.

La Victoria’s tacos and tortas represent Mexico’s first- and second-most popular street foods. And these are not the tacos you grew up on with shells out of a cardboard box. Fresh tortillas, never-frozen veggies and meats, salsas and moles that are the product of generations of recipes are the stuff these tacos are made of. These are going to give a whole new meaning to Taco Tuesday at my house.

A torta is the sandwich you didn’t even know you’ve been dreaming about. La Victoria uses the special telera bun, the only choice for tortas in Mexico. It’s sliced, filled and pressed into the crusty-on-the-outside-gooey-on-the-inside piece of heaven that you find in only a perfect Roma panino or Havana Cubano. When it comes to choosing your filling, there is a range that spans from vegetarian options to a daily special lingua (beef tongue).

Owner provides primer

I asked Alex for a primer on some of the staples of his menu. Carnitas is a slow-braised pork that is first marinated overnight and then roasted for several hours in the oven, then shredded and added to a dish. Barbacoa is the beef version of carnitas.

Pastor is the street food that calls to you from down the block because the smoky sweet and spicy fragrance is epic. Pork is first marinated in ancho and guajillo peppers, onion and pineapple and then stacked on a vertical rotisserie in a trompo, or funnel shape, similar to the Greek gyros and Middle Eastern shawarma. Then as the meat chars and caramelizes on the outer edges, it’s carved off and piled on your taco or torta. Um, is it hot in here?

Then I asked about elotes, the street food I had heard famed restaurateur, cookbook author and TV personality Rick Bayless waxing poetic about. Elotes is an ear of corn skewered with a stick and rolled in first mayonnaise and then fresh cheese, dried chili, lime and salt. Alex explained that it is everyone’s favorite summer snack, and La Victoria serves it when corn is in season.

This was music to my ears, you see -- I’m a corn snob. Growing up on the Jersey shore, my mom would serve only corn that had been picked that day, preferably that hour. I love the sensibility that says, it’s worth the wait for the freshest, tastiest produce. It seems Barrientos feels the same way.

So I’m willing to wait for August to sink my teeth into this fabled treat. Alex says it’s always on his summer catering menus, and it’s like a party on a stick. Hmm, party you say? Heck, my birthday is in August and let’s see … I can mix my killer fresh fruit 100 percent agave margaritas, get the pastor carver humming along to the mariachi tunes, light some lanterns and … ahem, I suppose I do digress. But it’s daydreams like this that’ll keep me going while I’m scraping ice off my windshield in a few weeks.

So in the meantime, I will practically be pacing the sidewalk out front of La Victoria Taqueria for its opening. After the last inspection Tuesday, Nov. 4, Alex and his staff opened the same day.

And while we are all suffering through another long, cold snowy winter, we Arlingtonians will have the true tropical flavors of a sunny cobblestone square in Mexico to keep us warm.

This story was published Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, and updated the next day. When she is not writing, the author, Lori Uhland of Arlington, styles homes and events at She specializes in big-bang-for-your-buck functional design and loves all things delicious. She plans to review the food at La Victoria Taqueria.