It was only because of steadfast devotion to my readers that on my second visit to Galindo’s, I swerved from the torta menu — 22 choices — and sampled the tacos and fajitas that are better known in these parts. The choice was heart-wrenching because the two tortas I did get to try — the specialty Galindo’s is known for — were so damn good.
Chef-owner Erik Galindo is from Mexico City, where apparently they will put anything between bread, including tamales, chile relleno, or chilaquiles. Tortas (sandwiches) are sold by street vendors there and prepared at the cart on the spot.
The difference, Galindo says, is that in Mexico City the tortas are even larger than in Southgate. I didn’t bring a ruler, but I’d say each half of a Galindo torta — thank god they’re cut in two — is about 7 inches by 4-and-a-half inches. The bread, which is flatter than a usual bolillo, rectangular rather than oval, comes from Sheila’s Bakery on Springwells, and isn’t sold in the store. Each torta is thus more than plenty for two people.
The fillings are… hearty. All include the mild Oaxaca cheese, quesillo, and one, two, three or four kinds of meat. The Chupacabra incorporates five proteins: breaded chicken and steak, pork, salchicha (frankfurter), and egg. The Russian, inexplicably, uses breaded steak, pork, and American cheese. This is all on top of mayo, tomato, thick slices of avocado, and occasional flashes of jalapeño.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Was the pork in the Acapulco marinated? What had been done to the mushrooms in this relatively simple torta, just three ingredients? Was it the fried egg in the three-meat Cubana (salchicha and breaded chicken and steak) that pushed it to stardom? My companions and I agreed that there was some kind of secret sauce that lifted these sandwiches way above the norm. They come with fries or rice and refried beans, the latter being eminently missable.
I also adored the chilaquiles, listed as an appetizer but often a breakfast dish. “Chilaquiles” can mean some widely varying takes, depending where you are in Mexico, but Galindo’s Mexico City style (and his mom's) is to toss tortilla chips in salsa verde and top with queso fresco, onions, cilantro, and a bit of sour cream. The crowning glory, don’t leave this out, is a fried egg, which Chef Galindo makes perfectly with crisp edges and a runny yolk. The result is soggy on the bottom and crisp on top, and I couldn’t come close to finishing it.
More stand-outs: Horchata. Made from scratch, by soaking the rice in-house, it’s strongly reminiscent of vanilla (though there isn’t any, in fact) and cinnamon. This is the best horchata I’ve had since a Salvadoran version some years ago, with morro seeds. And the pale green, creamy jalapeño salsa looks and feels like it should contain avocado but instead is somehow deeply smoky and complex based just on the hot pepper and cilantro.
Also superior is guacamole — a big chunky bowl with lots of tomato is $6.50. Tortilla chips are fried fresh every day and served warm with four salsas — jalapeño, verde, “mild,” and “hot” — each of which has a lot more going on than just heat. On my next visit I’ll be taking home a full cup of the jalapeño sauce for $2.50.
Although the tortas are what makes Galindo’s special, you can also order tacos, enchiladas, flautas, tostadas, salads, fajitas, burritos, or quesadillas. A few boast an ominously named “baja ranch” sauce. I ordered a pork Taco de Ciudad — Ciudad refers to Mexico City — which meant topped with fries. Your reaction to such excess might be either “Why?” or “Oh yeah.” I found my simple tilapia taco with onion and cilantro to be more generous with the fish than most, on doubled crisp tortillas.
If you order fajitas — which are Tex-Mex, not Ciudad de Mexico — you’ll get a huge pile of sizzling meat over mild peppers and construct the dish using your own proportions of lettuce, guacamole, and sour cream.
Desserts are also from Sheila’s Bakery, including a dense, eggy, generous flan and a moist, generous tres leches cake with bonus nuts.
You are sensing the common theme: portions are very large.
Galindo’s also has two food trucks that go all over Downriver and a location at Little Caesars Arena; Grosse Ile is eyed for expansion. The Southgate store at 13754 Fort St. is imminently simple, with just four tables and a brisk carry-out business, but it’s just expanded to an additional, larger location a bit up the road, at 1297 Fort St. in Wyandotte. Erin Galindo, wife of Erik, says some smaller portions are available there.