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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Good Eats at the Carnitas Snack Shack

It seems like everyone today is a foodie - ugggh, how I hate that term, perhaps even worse than I hate the term "food blogger".  There are a lot of fake food critics out there, people who come on like experts but don't have the credentials or experience to back themselves up.  So when I read a food blog recently that claimed the food trends that were over were bacon and pork belly, two of my favorite ingredients, I rushed down to the newest eatery in San Diego that focused on both.

The Carnitas Snack Shack is a tiny, unassuming "restaurant" on 2632 University Ave in North Park. It's hard to find but the trick is to look for the giant pig on the roof.

Now don't let the exterior and location turn you away.  I know it looks like a refurbished Porkaberto's or something but just wait.  You order at the front window.

I love it!  Nearly every item has some sort of pork in it.  I also love that there's nothing over $9.  So hard to decide, but in the end I ordered the Pork Sandwich. 

While the front of the restaurant looks like a dive, the back is positively elegant.  It's an open seating patio and a pleasant surprise.  Now I always second guess my decisions when it comes to food so I started thinking I should have gotten something more exciting, especially when I saw some of the incredibly creative food coming out of the kitchen.  The ribeye steak sandwiches were steaming hot and looking absolutely stunning on their cheddar toast and the gal next to me had some sort of crazy tower of pork.  I was starting to fear that my pork sandwich might be a boring pulled pork deal.  But here it comes!

Whoa!  Is it my birthday?  This dang sandwich ($9) wasn't what I was expecting  It has a crispy fried pork tenderloin on the bottom, some pulled pork in the middle, and tons of crunchy bacon on the top.  The bun was nicely grilled to provide even more texture, and the sauces and relish accented the flavors nicely.  How good was it?

Pretty damn good!  In fact, this might be one of my favorite food bites of the past year!  It was creative, sure, but unlike other places where they just put tons of disparate ingredients together and call it gourmet, this sandwich wouldn't be out of place at George's at the Cove's Ocean Terrace.  It was honest, it was delicious, it kicked ass.  And the tiny dish of corn was a sweet contrast to the savory goodness.

The fries ($2.50) were very good, decent, with a nice dusting of spices.  The housemade catsup was less successful, a bit lacking in flavor, but I saw on their website that they also have aioli and that might be the ticket next time.  But I sure like how they serve them up in a paper bag with their pig logo stamped on the front.  It looked homey and gourmet at the same time.

My buddy ordered the carnitas tacos and had equally rave reviews.  Look at them - the pork is moist and succulent, the guacamole fresh, and both tacos stuffed to the top.  If you can find a better way to spend $7, let me know. 

The Carnitas Snack Shack is open from noon to midnight everyday except for Tuesdays.  With food that costs just slightly more than fast food but tastes better than some gourmet restaurants, the Carnitas Shack is destined to become a San Diego local favorite.  Get here for lunch, get her for a cheap dinner, get here after you grow tired of the bar scene, just get in here!


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