David Chang needed a 30-minute show to take you inside the mind of a chef. But it will only take a few moments to know chef Carlos Mortera. You just have to step inside The Bite (23 E. 3rd St.), the new sandwich shop he opened last Friday with Bryan Merker in the City Market. The tables and paintings on the walls have been painted by his hand — the same one that will serve you dishes that have sprung from his imagination.
“The menu is full of things that I’ve loved to eat since I was a kid. I’m Mexican and I’ve always liked Asian food, especially Korean.” Mortera says. “And I love sandwiches.”
The Bite’s menu reflects that love with tamales, ice cream sandwiches, and a robust sandwich menu built for carnivores and vegans alike. Diners at Nica’s 320 (now Lagniappe) will likely recognize a pair of pulled pork two-handers: the Boss Hog (sesame slaw and Korean BBQ sauce) & Hickory (apple moonshine onions, hickory bacon, smoked mozzarella). The bread for the sandwiches is from Bonito Michoacan in Kansas City, Kansas.
“With the sandwiches, I just want you to get all those flavors: sweet, spicy, umami,” Mortera says. “And the bread is perfect because it keeps a crunch when you toast it.”
Merker points to the Sloppy – a vegan sloppy joe made with soy chorizo, corn, an olive blend, queso fresco and a Sriracha crema as a potential hit. Mortera likens the Ko-Fu, a smoked tofu sandwich with Korean BBQ sauce, cilantro, cucumber, carrots, radish and pickled onions, to a banh mi.
“I worked at Michael Smith for a while and it was there that I learned how to use vinegar,” Mortera says.
Mortera won’t reveal his tamale source, except to say it’s a “lady he’s known for years.” During the first week, he’s found himself coming back to the sweet corn tamale with korean short ribs (pictured above). Vegans can opt for a potato curry tamale topped with mushrooms.
“The City Market was missing somebody that does a little bit of everything,” Merker says.
Merker is baking the cookies for The Bite. The abuelita is a chocolate chip cookie with ancho chili, cinnamon and sea salt. The Bite also has a jalapeno white chocolate chip and bacon bourbon chocolate chip cookie.
“The bacon bourbon is what you get if you don’t like sweets. It’s savory, but then there’s this bright splash of sweetness from the dark chocolate,” Mortera says.
After they’ve been open for a few weeks, Mortera will add a weekly special cookie, sandwich and ice cream sandwich. And he’s thinking about a food truck that serves tamales and sandwiches when the weather warms.
The Bite is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.