Chalia's Bakery has a simple menu — Mexican tortas and milk cakes, with a few additions such as cookies, grilled chicken and tacos — but the variations on those items make choosing what to eat, and actually eating it, an adventure.

I'd noticed Chalia's a few times when driving along Midvale's Center Street, attracted by its cute little building with a teensy courtyard out front and the smiling, ponytailed girl on its logo. We finally went with the kids for a weekend lunch, and the clean interior was every bit as appealing as the outside, with a tile floor, little round tables dotted across the small dining space and a glass bakery case filled with enticing cakes.

The menu calls Chalia's sandwiches panini, but that's really just a marketing term. These big, generously filled sandwiches are tortas, a classic Mexican sandwich served on a big, crusty roll. True, these sandwiches were pressed for extra crispness, but their fillings had distinctly Mexican touches. Also, they're enormous: a whole one would easily feed two women, even really hungry ones.

Two of our daughters shared the ham sandwich, slices of moist ham spread with mayo and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and avocados. One of them, of course, picked off everything but the ham and cheese, but the other enjoyed the blend of many different flavors. Though the menu promised Cheddar cheese, this sandwich had American; I missed the authenticity of Cheddar (Jack or Oaxaca would be nice, too).

Our son and youngest daughter shared the Saturday special, a half mollete served with bean soup, a drink and a cookie. A mollete is a Mexican snack, and this one was warm and filling with its bread spread with butter and topped with tender beans and cheese, then toasted until it all melded together. It came with a cup of fiery pico de gallo and the bean soup, simple and savory and topped with crushed tortilla chips.

My husband had the Mexican pork sandwich, a monumental portion of pulled pork in a smoky sauce that was not a bit sweet, spread on crispy bread along with mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.

The Mexican pork was delicious, and I think I'd have begged for a couple more bites of my own sandwich, the turkey breast with chipotle mayo, hadn't been so good. It was nicely balanced between sliced turkey breast, that smoky and just-spicy sauce and toppings of lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, avocado and cream cheese.

For dessert, a couple of the kids munched on simple, creamy white sugar cookies while the rest of us enjoyed milk and chocolate cakes. The milk cakes at Chalia's aren't tres leches, because that means "three milks. The menu promises "four milks cake," and our server mentioned that the bakers also make one with five milks.

All of that is fine with me, because Mexican milk cake is one of life's great pleasures, and those at Chalia's cover a wide spectrum of flavors: pineapple, pina colada, strawberry, mocha — all of them featuring delicious, crumby cake soaked to a pudding-like consistency in sweet milk, then frosted with cream. Oh, golly, are they good.

But if that's not your thing, there's other cake: vanilla cake layered with fruit and topped with caramel, or chocolate cake stacked high with layers of cream, held together with pirouline cookies pressed around the side. There also are cheesecake brownies, pretzels dipped in candy, homemade truffles, huge cinnamon rolls ... need I say more?

Sandwiches $3.99-$6.99, grilled chicken $5.99-$15.99, tacos and quesadillas $1.50-$5.99, combos and specials $3.39-$6.99, individual desserts $1-$4.75, half and full sheet cakes $60-$130.

Rating: ***

Where: 752 W. Center (7800 South), Midvale

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 562-0063

Wheelchair access: Easy

Also: Catering, takeout available

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: [email protected]