The chorizo torta at Tres Leches Cake’s Flor in South Portland. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

Among the many things I still miss about the massive, messy, motel-y city of Houston, Texas, where I used to live, is the staggering number of wonderful strip-mall hole-in-the-wall cafes – “restaurant” feels too grand a word – that served every conceivable immigrant cuisine: Pakistani, Indian, Vietnamese, Persian, Chinese, Salvadoran among them, and of course, Mexican. If, that is, you can call Mexican an immigrant cuisine in a state that was part of Mexico until 1836.

Which brings me to Tres Leches Cake’s Flor, a modest cafe that opened in January in the old Taytene space on Broadway in South Portland. The mere look of the place – clean, bright, humble, hopeful – reminded me of Houston. I was primed to like it. And, spoiler alert, I did.

The name is misleading. In addition to its cheerful display of Mexican cakes and pan dulce (the latter pastry case was empty but for a single cookie on an early February evening), the cafe serves a full menu of tortas, semitas (think torta on a seeded roll), tacos, quesadillas, tamales and huarachas. You’ll also find Mexican soft drinks, aqua frescas and champurrado — a hot chocolate and corn drink I will definitely be back for.

The vanilla tres leches cake, with a cherry on top. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

I quickly settled on a chorizo torta ($16.95), then found I couldn’t resist horchata ($4.50), a cinnamon-y rice pudding in drink form that I sipped as I waited for my sandwich. Plus, how could I say no to the cafe’s namesake tres leches cake ($7)? The cake comes in several flavors, sliced and boxed as are the other cakes in a case at the counter where you order. Along with tiramisu, cheesecake, flan and chocolate cake, I spied chocoflan cake. Another wave of nostalgia! I hadn’t seen, or even remembered it (as it sounds, a chocolate cake topped with flan) since I left Texas.

The chorizo torta was gigantic (I made two meals of it) and as delicious as it was generous. The soft, lightly grilled roll neatly held layers of spicy meat, refried beans, fresh Oaxaca cheese, sautéed jalapenos, avocado and tomato slices and shredded lettuce in perfect proportions – and right to the edge of the roll (unlike many other badly constructed sandwiches I’ve had). Each component was nice and fresh, and the sausage and jalapeno supplied a pleasing noticeable tingle.

Tres Leches Cake’s Flor is also named for Flor Contreras, who bakes the cakes. She and her husband Hector Gabin own the cafe, their first, according to Gabin. It seems to be a family affair: The night I visited, their (preteen?) daughter took my order, and her younger brother was there, too.

A half-dozen black laminate cafe tables line the perimeter of the cafe, a miscellany of pink walls, trompe l’oeil brick wallpaper and jigsaw puzzle hanging lights in pink, lavender and aqua. A statue of the Virgin Mary stands on a shelf near the ceiling by a vase of red carnations. If I needed another nudge to make me miss Texas, I got one: Tejano music played as I ate my dinner.

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