Tortilla Tournament Week 2: Newcomers galore in the Suave 16!

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The Suave 16 saw several upsets as underdogs beat top-seeded contenders. Photo via Shutterstock

You'll rarely catch me at a loss for words, but the Round 2 matchups in the 2023 Tortilla Tournament have made that happen. The headline is real, folks: There were historic developments on the way to the Suave 16 while giants barely made it through.

After the Suave 16, we'll narrow the contenders down to the Eso Eight then the Fuerte Four. Each of the Fuerte Four will receive a 4-pound tub of lard, courtesy of Coast Packing. Now, it's YOUR turn to vote for a winner! From now until our finale (Oct. 8 at Smorgasburg LA), we're letting folks vote for their favorite tortilla maker. The top vote-getter will win the inaugural Bronze Comal People's Choice, which comes with a $300 gift card to Northgate Market. The overall Tortilla Tournament winner receives a $500 card to Northgate and the person who wins our Fantasía Bracket gets a $200 Northgate gift card. Cast your vote for the Bronze Comal right here!

Now, on to the results.

In a major upset, Chiguacle beat the 2022 Tortilla Tournament winner, La Princesita. Photo by Gustavo Arellano


Judge: Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW's Good Food

Evan's Results

#1 La Princesita vs. #8 Chiguacle: During last year's live final judging, I think I said La Princesita was like a comforting hug. It still is. What a fantastic everyday tortilla. But Chiguacle, with locations in Sun Valley and DTLA, continues to intrigue me with its varied texture and solid flavor. Winner: Chiguacle

#12 Pan Victoria vs #13 Urbano Mexican Kitchen: This was an interesting matchup. Two thick, nearly puffy white corn tortillas. But Pan Victoria is well named. It's thickness makes it almost bread-like, which in this instance is a good thing. After I finished judging I cut it in half and stuffed it with cheese and salsa. Craveable. Winner: Pan Victoria 

#3 Kernel of Truth vs. #11 La Yalaltequita: This was the second most difficult matchup for me. I have so much respect for what Kernel of Truth is doing in terms of sourcing and production but I have to give it to La Yalaltequita. It has a kind of sweetness that lingers on the palate. Winner: La Yalaltequita

#2 Mitla Café vs. #10 Original La Adelita: No contest here. Mitla Café is just so substantial with no stodginess in texture and a corn-forward flavor. Winner: Mitla Café  

Evan's Round 2 Matchups

#8 Chiguacle vs. #12 Pan Victoria

#2 Mitla Cafe vs. #11 La Yalaltequita 

Gustavo's takeaway: I don't think Evan cares for a single sport except maybe the Dodgers and that's only because it's an L.A. thing. But Evan should follow college basketball, because she's the epitome of what's called a bracket-buster: someone who flips conventional wisdom and ruins everyone's bracket choices by having the underdogs beat the big-timers. (Sorry, La Princesita, but don't worry: No one has ever repeated as a Golden Tortilla winner.) That said, what a thrilling group for the Suave 16: Three first-timers, and a SoCal legend! I'm especially excited for Pan Victoria, which is the first-ever Central American-style tortilla to make it into the Suave 16 — and in its first year of competition, no less. Congrats!

Tortillas from Tortilleria Lily (left) and Taco María (right) were both winners in this round. Photo by Gustavo Arellano


Judge: Gustavo Arellano, LA Times journalist and KCRW contributor

#1 Tallula's vs. #8 Tortilleria Oaxaca: While Tortilleria Oaxaca did make it into the second round, they still had a lingering bitterness that ensured it wouldn't go too far in the tournament — and especially not against Tallula's, a marvel where you could basically taste the texture of the tortilla itself: craggy, profound, incredible. A marvel! they keep getting better every year. Is this their year to win the Golden Tortilla, despite their closure in August? Winner: Tallula's 

#4 Rancho Grande Market vs. #5 Chabelita's: No contest. Rancho Grande Market in Desert Hot Springs is good, especially given it's a supermarket tortilla, but no way could it beat handmade Pacoima tortillas from Chabelita's. Winner: Chabelita's

#3 El Indio vs. #6 Tortilleria Lily: They met up in the finals of the San Diego Tortilla Invitational last year. Tortillería Lily won but lost in the second round of the general #TortillaTournament, while El Indio went on to Suave 16. This year, they do-si-do their luck. Both are very good but Lily is better this time around and advances. Winner: Lily  

#2 Taco María vs. #7 La Fondita: Carlos Salgado of Taco María is a man on a mission, and no way would a really good — but not great — corn tortilla get in his way. Winner: Taco María

Gustavo's Suave 16 Matchups

#1 Tallula's vs. #5 Chabelita's

#2 Taco Maria vs. #6 Tortilleria Lily 

Gustavo's Takeaway: From San Diego to Santa Monica to the San Fernando Valley, there are a lot of saints moving on in my bracket — and let's not forget Holy Taco María. No real upsets with me so far. It happens!

Sonoratown wins and advances to the next round. Photo by Gustavo Arellano


Judge: Connie Alvarez, KCRW Communications Director

#1 Sonoratown vs. La Cazuela: La Cazuela really gave Sonoratown a run for its money but Sonoratown wins for its one extra salt crystal! Winner: Sonoratown

#4 El Cholo vs. #5 Manolo Farmers Market: Gustavo note: Connie never submitted notes! But I do know she loved Manolo Farmers Market, because they're moving on! Winner: Manolo

#3 El Ruso vs. #6 Dunsmoor vs. # 14 Stater Bros. Sonora Style: Aaaand Dunsmoor comes in with the tiebreaker… itself! Of the three little guys, this one had bigger flavor. Winner: Dunsmoor

#2 Burritos La Palma vs. #7 Heritage Craft BBQ & Brewery:  🚨 UPSET ALERT  🚨 Heritage Craft BBQ comes seemingly out of nowhere to take a seat at the big round flour table!! Winner: Heritage

Connie's Suave 16 Matchups 

#1 Sonoratown vs. #5 Manolo Farmers Market

#6 Dunsmoor vs. #7 Heritage Craft BBQ & Brewery

Gustavo's takeaway: Just like Evan, Connie's Suave 16 has three newcomers and one stalwart. All of these are fabulous  but which is going to be more fabulous than the others?

Super A Foods won in a head to head matchup with La Carreta. Photo by Gustavo Arellano


Judge: Sean Vukan, #TortillaTournament scout

#1 HomeState vs. #9 A's BBQ: This matchup was one that I was dreading when I saw the seedings. Why? I love what Alan Cruz does in his East Los driveway with A's BBQ. He takes risks. Everything is done from scratch, including his tortillas, which he makes with beef tallow. They also, as mentioned before, come packaged raw, and a raw tortilla going up against the epitome of a flour tortilla, like the one from HomeState, is almost unfair. A's had bite to them, a good amount of chew, and the right amount of salt. They also, at points, felt a little gummy and oily. Contrast that to HomeState, which really seems to have upped their tortilla game this year. Perfect spotting, buttery, the slightest dusting of flour. HomeState is, once again, a force to be reckoned with in the flour bracket. Winner: HomeState

#4 Super A Foods vs. #12 La Carreta: La Carreta's tortillas are perfect for quesadillas. Medium-sized (about 8 inches) with an almost wheaty taste, a solid structure and the right amount of bite, these had a great taste. Super A Foods' tortillas are buttery, with an elastic rip. I was all set to put these tortillas back in the bag and try them later with a different test… until I began eating piece after piece of Super A's tortillas as I was cleaning up the pieces of La Carreta. So thin and pliable, these are the tortillas that remind me of my childhood but in the best possible way. Winner: Super A Foods

#3 Bar Amá vs. #6 Las Cuatro Milpas: Bar Amá's tortillas had a nice aroma to them as they warmed up on the comal but they turned out to be stiff and brittle only days after picking them up. Taste-wise, these were only okay. Contrast that to the extremely flavorful, fluffy, and aromatic tortillas of Las Cuatro Milpas and this was an easy win for Barrio Logan's finest. Winner: Las Cuatro Milpas

#2 Anchos vs. #7 La Troca Catracha: I love Anchos' fluffy, snack-size tortillas. I keep coming back to how snackable they are and these are definitely a #2 seed for a reason. However, these thick tortillas lose their luster after being in a freezer and refrigerated, taken out, and re-refrigerated. What started out so fluffy, to me, ended up being plain and doughy. La Troca Catracha's Honduran wonders were pliable, wheaty, aromatic, and held their flavor. This was tough, but the number two seed goes down in the second round. Winner: La Troca Catracha

Sean's Suave 16 Matchups

#1 HomeState vs. #4 Super A Foods 

#6 Las Cuatro Milpas vs. #7 La Troca Catracha

Gustavo's takeaway: What did I tell you about first-timers showing the favorites what's up? Three of San Diego's four entries made it into the Suave 16, along with a Guatemalan corn and a Honduran flour tortilla. Congrats to them! But the road to the Fuerte Four has a bunch of juggernauts still around. Can a couple of Davids take down the Goliaths? And who will win the Bronze Comal people's choice award? Vote away!

Vote here!