There might not be another breakfast in the world quite as good as Mexico's. From staples like chilaquiles, molletes or huevos rancheros to regional specialties like machaca, tortas ahogadas or Jalisco-style barbacoa, few countries have mastered the art of breakfast so well.
And in the northern city of Torreón there is one undisputed breakfast king: the gordita. Located in Coahuila state, Torreón is a scorchingly hot industrial city surrounded by imposing hills, dry lake beds and miles of desert. Every morning, thousands of Laguneros, as locals are known, of all ages and social classes flock to their nearest gordita merchant.
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They are not hard to find. On almost every street there's someone selling gorditas, from humble vendors on bicycle carts to chain restaurants like La Pestaña.
The gordita, meaning "little fatty," is a popular snack across Mexico, typically consisting of fried masa dough stuffed with any combination of meat, cheese, eggs, beans, or veg. In Torreón, however, the dough is made with flour. Slightly thinner than the corn variety and a little lighter on the stomach, it almost resembles pita, with a beige surface beautifully mottled with golden brown speckles.
To understand this local obsession, I visited Gordy Mania, a small, family-run establishment on a busy Torreón street, early one Friday morning. Gordy Mania is a humble place with cracked floor tiles and white and green paint flaking from the walls. Those are the colors of Santos Laguna, the local soccer team whose photos and memorabilia are plastered on almost every surface.
The owner Luis González founded Gordy Mania 24 years ago and now employs a staff of six, including three family members. Despite being busy making breakfast for his loyal clientele, he took a few minutes to explain to me what makes a good gordita joint.
"On average we sell 500 to 600 gorditas every day," he said. "The same customers come back every day. Some of them have been coming here for 15 to 20 years and they always order exactly the same thing."
Gordy Mania has an extensive menu, including gorditas with beans and cheese, eggs and nopal (cactus), chorizo with cheese or potatoes, and an array of different meat stews, priced at 11 to 12 pesos, well under a dollar each.
"The most popular fillings are chicharrón prensado and carne con chile," González said. Chicharrón prensado is made using pork skin or cheek cooked in salsa verde with green jalapeños, while carne con chile is made with braised pork, with a different salsa verde.
Mexicans take their salsas very seriously, he added: "We have five different salsas that we put out on every table, all different from the sauces that the meats are cooked in. We have jalapeño, tomatillo and red chile salsas, and two different salsas made with chile de árbol."
One of the reasons their customers keep coming back is the freshness of their produce and the speed and efficiency of their service, González added. "We make the gorditas when you order them, not like the street vendors who have them pre-made and serve them out of plastic boxes," he said. "We prepare them in front of you but we still serve you very quickly."
Following González's advice, I try a couple of gorditas filled with chicharrón and carne con chile. The chicharrón is soft on the tongue, complementing the slightly crunchy tortilla casing, while the salsas are every bit as fiery as you would expect. I wash them down with a mug of coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice before thanking González and moving on my way.
It's not hard to see why Torreón's gorditas are so revered: they're a quick, delicious and filling breakfast that's kind on the wallet if not the waist.
Follow Duncan Tucker on Twitter: @DuncanTucker