Food & Drink

Is this the best sandwich in Charlotte that you’ve never heard of?

The chorizo torta, $9, is topped with browned slices of Mexican-style chorizo sausage.
The chorizo torta, $9, is topped with browned slices of Mexican-style chorizo sausage. Kathleen Purvis

“The chorizo torta at Sav Way is magic.”

This tip came from John T. Edge, the director of the Mississippi-based Southern Foodways Alliance, in answer to my email asking if he had eaten anything good on a recent food-scouting trip in Charlotte.

Now, Edge is a guy who’s made chasing hidden Southern foods cool. He made it so cool, he once dismissed others who chase food as “tourists searching for pelts.”

Still, the man does know a good pelt when he bites into one. And since the SFA is coming to Charlotte on June 23-24 for an exploration of the Latino-influenced South, he’s been spending a bit of time in Charlotte lately, in search of finds.

As a food journalist and competitive eater, I check in when I hear he’s been poking around town, always hoping (at least privately) that he hasn’t found something I didn’t know about already. Man, I hate it when that happens.

Which is how I found myself, a few days after that email exchange, at the Sav/Way on Central Avenue in Darby Acres, tucking into that chorizo torta, hoping it wasn’t really all that magic.

Sav/Way is one of the small, 1960s-era grocery stores that still dot a few Charlotte neighborhoods, now stocked with food for a completely different clientele, usually food that 1960s shoppers wouldn’t recognize at all. (It’s located just a few doors over from the Latin American bakery Las Delicias – a place I already know well, Mr. Edge, thank you very much.)

If you make your way past the produce department and freezer cases, at the very back of the store, you’ll find a lunch counter. You can’t miss it: Look for the low stools, the brightly colored paper decorations, the chalkboards full of sandwiches, and the adult-size chicken mask perched behind the griddle. (Why a chicken mask, you ask? And I can only answer: Why not a chicken mask?)

The chorizo torta is $9, kind of pricey for a working lunch. But it’s built on a loaf of slipper-shaped bread as big as a clown shoe. It still isn’t big enough to hold the filling: Slices of avocado, leaves of lettuce, jalapeno slices, onion and a generous smear of mayonnaise all spill, squirt and drip out while you try to keep the whole thing smashed together. All of that is topped with wide, thin slices of dry-aged Mexican-style chorizo, crisped a little on a griddle. And my favorite part: Slices of fresh queso asado, the white cheese topped with a lacy pattern where it’s been browned on the edges.

The whole thing is cooked in a foil-covered sandwich press so it has that shattering-crisp crust of great lunch-counter sandwiches.

You have to pay cash. But if you throw in a cold cup of dark red hibiscus agua fresca and grab an empty spot to lean at the counter, it’s a great find for lunch.

Yes, it is a little magic. Darn it.

If there’s one dish that will persuade your family to like cabbage, it’s a golden torta filled with sauteed cabbage, browned onions and creamy cheese.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

Sav/Way Lunch Counter

Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Cash only. 4459 Central Ave.

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