When Alfredo Delatorre was a kid, his grandmother would take him to a little corner stand that made gorditas and burritos after shopping for her groceries on Sundays in Juarez, Mexico. Even as he grew up, the memories of watching cars drive by while eating the dish made with a flour pastry shell and stuffed with cheese, meat, or other fillings, much like a Venezuelan arepa, came rushing back as he visited 15 years later.
“I think food should evoke not only the senses of hunger and all that excitement but an emotion,” Delatorre says. So after visiting again as an adult with those memories flooding back through his mind, he decided to sketch out a plan to open his own gorditas restaurant in Las Vegas with a goal of changing the idea of what Latin comfort food can be.
Gabi’s Gorditas debuted on Blue Diamond Road, where new restaurants are popping up along the busy street to feed the hungry residents of this neighborhood in the southwest. The counter-service restaurant specializes in the pastry stuffed pockets using ingredients from across the Latin world that are often healthy.
The gorditas come stuffed with nopales, a grilled cactus with house-made pickled corn, picked red onions, and avocado garnished with oven-dried tomatoes, jicama strings, avocado salsa, and crema; Colorado pork loin filled with chili Colorado sauce, Peruvian beans, spicy Latin giardiniera, and cotija; tuna poke packed with ahi tuna, sesame soy ginger cactus, cucumber, edamame, spicy Latin giardiniera, avocado salsa, and tostones chips; and tinga de pollo stuffed with shredded chicken that has been brined for 24 hours, onion, and chipotle tomato sauce garnished by pickled cabbage, queso fresco, avocado salsa, and pickled red onion. Vegetarian versions come tucked with charro beans, Peruvian beans, or roasted poblanos. All cost less than $5.50 each.
Gabi’s Gorditas, which Delatorre named for his sister and her sunny disposition, also offers house-made drinks such as mint lemonade and the Purple Haze with ube, almond milk, coconut milk, pickled blueberries, and toasted coconut. For dessert, the restaurant offers its own version of fruit roll-ups with seasonal, fresh fruit, and agave, or ube pudding.
Delatorre says a cousin died of cancer back in October, and for the three months before his death, he visited him in El Paso, across the border from Juarez. “I haven’t been to my hometown in maybe over 15 years,” says Delatorre, who worked at restaurants such as The Blind Pig, Public House at the Venetian, and and Chin Chin at New York-New York. “I stopped by my traditional places that I used to go when I was a kid. Nostalgia hits you in the weirdest times and the weirdest places and brings you back to moments.”
Gabi’s Gorditas, 5095 Blue Diamond Road #110, 702-689-0941. Open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.