What’s not to love about a restaurant where carnitas aren’t just one of the best items on the menu, but the name of the pet mini pig belonging to owners Chef Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud. The pair opened Carnitas’ Snack Shack in 2011 in San Diego’s North Park, quickly becoming a neighborhood fixture and all around must visit destination for serious eaters. Although the restaurant literally is a shack, an outdoor bar pouring craft beers and wooden seating area make for an inviting, laid back atmosphere perfect for sunny days and late nights. The pork-focused menu features familiar snack items like tacos, sandwiches, and burgers, with everything made in-house and/or sourced from local purveyors.
Pork Belly App [$8] | braised duroc pork/ sweet-spicy glaze/ frisée salad/ apples/ radish/ lemon vinaigrette
Pork belly in all forms is a glorious thing, but here it reached near gluttonous proportions. The three-inch thick square slab of pure pork porn was braised until fork-tender and the skin turned gelatinous, making for some incredibly pleasurable porcine flavors. It was no doubt intensely rich, but the sweet-spicy glaze and lemon-laced frisèe salad helped to keep things balanced. This is one of those I-want-to-eat-this-whole-thing-but-know-I-shouldn’t dishes, so find someone to share it with and save yourself the shaming later.
Carnitas Tacos (2) [$7] | salmon creek farm pork carnitas/ standard accompaniments
An order of the namesake carnitas tacos were an obvious choice, and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest; crisp, fatty chunks of meat were generously piled into warm corn tortillas with a smear of guacamole and some pico de gallo. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the carnitas were better than a lot of the Mexican food I adore so much in Los Angeles. There was definitely some American BBQ elements at play – as opposed to being pure Mexican-style carnitas – but regardless they were absolutely delicious and a credit to the level of cooking from Chef Cavin and crew.
Even with only a small sampling of the menu, it’s obvious why Carnitas’ Snack Shack has become so popular (4 1/2 stars with over 1200 reviews on Yelp) in only a few years. Both items I ordered were on point and fairly priced, and you really can’t beat the backyard vibes behind the restaurant. The fact that they stay open late AND deliver seal the deal for this being one of the best things to happen to the North Park area in some time. Next time around I’m intent on trying the SnackShack Burger complete with bacon jam…because the answer is always more pork.
Carnitas’ Snack Shack
2632 Pershing Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
Dine date: Sun 1.5.14, 7:00p