Tortilla Factory and Restaurant in Mammoth serves up fresh, hand-stretched tortillas.
It takes a lot people to make Maria Torres’ hand-stretched tortillas. “It’s a lot of labor” says Torres, the owner of Mi Pueblito Mexican Food and Tortillas Mi Pueblito in Mammoth.
“My product, it’s a good quality. I use more employees. The way we make it, that’s what I need,” says Torres. Torres is proud of the freshness of her flour tortillas, which are made in-house five days a week. That adds up to about 3000 dozen tortillas per week.
Mi Pueblito delivers 700 dozen flour tortillas twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays to the Globe-Miami area. They’re the tortillas you recognize from the registers at Fast Stop, Circle K, and Connie’s. “I’m proud to make my own products,” she says. “I like the freshness.”
Torres worked as a school teacher in Agua Prieta, Sonora, before emigrating to Douglas, Arizona. She worked at Wal-mart for twenty years. During that time, her sister started Mi Pueblito, driving from Tucson to Mammoth each day. In 2005, Torres transferred to work at a Wal-mart in Tucson to be closer to her sister and the business. Subsequently, she offered to take over the tortilla side of the operation for her sister. Gradually, “I increased what I was doing for my sister,” she explains. From the beginning,Torres had a clear goal and a ton of determination. “I just had in my mind what I wanted,” she says.
So when Torres retired from Wal-mart, she found herself with two small businesses to run—Tortillas Mi Pueblito and the restaurant Mi Pueblito Mexican Food. “My ambition was to have this kind of business,” she says. Torres’ sister still works with her at Mi Pueblito. Torres is quick to recognize her sister and the other women who have been with her at Mi Pueblito for many years: Alma Quijada, Cuqui Velasco, Josephina Mercer, and Cathy Garcia. “My employees stick with me,” she’s proud to say, even through some leaner times.
Torres bought the current building in 2011 and first moved the tortilla operation into the space. The restaurant followed in 2014. The building is divided to house the restaurant on one side and the tortillas and bakery on the other where customers can see the tortilla-making process up close and grab tortillas or a bakery item for take-out. Both the restaurant kitchen and bakery/tortilla side are completely open and impeccably clean. Still, Torres is always looking for ways to improve. She’s currently finishing a back room of the bakery to house her mixers in order to help contain the flour that makes its way into the air during the mixing process. She always invites suggestions from customers, saying “I’ll put it on my list.”
The tortillas start in a sixty gallon mixer, which stands nearly as tall as Torres and is just big enough to hold one batch. In the future, she hopes to be able to find a mixer that is big enough to hold two batches at once. After the dough is made, it is rolled by hand into balls, which are then flattened using a roller machine. Then the tortillas are stretched by hand before they go into the oven. Both flour and corn tortillas, which are made twice per week, are available in multiple sizes.
In addition to the flour and corn tortillas, the bakery produces beautiful, homemade, traditional Mexican pastries like cochitos, the pig-shaped cookies that Torres calls “a best seller all the way to Globe.” The cochitos are delivered to Connie’s in Globe along with the tortillas. The cookies are special because they’re made with the unrefined sugar piloncillo, which gives them a richer flavor. Plus, they’re really cute.
Just a few of the other homemade items in Torres’ bakery case include: coricos, which feature a base of toasted corn flour, pineapple, apple, and sometimes pumpkin empanadas, cinnamon rolls, and rollitos (apple rolls), which are Torres’ personal favorite. She also bakes her torta rolls on the premises and has them available for sale in the bakery. Small bags of the New Mexico chile that she uses in the restaurant’s enchilada sauce are for sale at the bakery’s register.
“I like when people say we have the best hamburgers in Mammoth,” Torres says with a laugh. According to Torres, one of the things that sets them apart from other restaurants in the area, besides their fresh, homemade tortillas, is that their menu features some American food as well, such as burgers and hot dogs.
In addition to the classics like green and red tamales, enchilada plates, and flautas (a staff favorite), the restaurant features many weekend and holiday specials like carne asada, posole, and BBQ ribs. “Everything we use at the restaurant, we make here,” she says. There’s also a deli case in the front of the restaurant that stocks meat, cheese, fruit salad, and flan. Globe-Miami residents will recognize the art of Wanda Mitchell-Tucker, which adorns the walls of the restaurant.
Mi Pueblito is closed on Mondays, but opens every other day of the week at 6 a.m. Torres’ special breakfast burrito for miners and other early morning travelers on highway 77 is particularly popular at that hour. On Friday nights, the restaurant hosts live music and their patio provides beautiful views.
Mi Pueblito is located at 706 Highway 77 in Mammoth. They’re open Tuesday-Saturday 6 a.m to 8 p.m. and Sunday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant makes fresh tortillas every day except Sunday and Monday. Call (520) 487-2123 or search “Mi Pueblito Mammoth” on Facebook for more information.
Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Edible Baja Arizona, Modern Farmer, Punch, Serious Eats, and elsewhere. Her first book, Beyond Canning was published in February 2016.