Price point: $13 for the ham & cheese torta ahogada
In the hall of messy sandwich fame, the torta ahogada trumps even the mighty Italian beef. Whereas the Chicago classic briefly bathes in a vat of beefy juices, this Mexican sandwich typically gets submerged in a gleefully spicy salsa, staining hands, shirt sleeves, or whatever else it comes in contact with a deep rust-colored red. Good luck eating one without an enormous stack of napkins.
So why does Dove’s Luncheonette in Wicker Park (1545 North Damen Avenue, 773-645-4060) leave its ham and cheese torta ahogada naked, plated in a pool of the salsa instead? It’s certainly not any easier to eat. The salsa now soaks only the bottom slice, but a sunny-side up egg on top virtually guarantees you’ll need a knife and fork.
But the advantage of Dove’s version is that it lets you better appreciate the contents between the bun. Besides the salsa, this looks an awful lot like a croque-madame—a cheesy ham sandwich with an egg perched on top. While most restaurants lean on the cheese part of the equation, Dove’s piles the ham high. Good thing, too, because this extra savory ham comes from Paul Kahan’s excellent butcher shop, Publican Quality Meats. Enjoy each and every salty slice.
But you can’t forget the salsa for long. Dove’s definitely didn’t tame the arbol chile salsa, leaving it fierce and feisty. How much you want to try drown each bite in comes down to your spice tolerance, or how much you enjoy tearing up in public places.