Carnitas' Snack Shack – Seen in San Diego Uptown News

February 3, 2012

Carnitas’ Snack Shack was favorably reviewed in the San Diego Uptown News column, Food and Drinks

A Visit to Pork Heaven
Restaurant Review by Frank Sabatini Jr.

Carnitas' Snack Shack
Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr, courtesy San Diego Uptown News.

There’s a whole lotta pig cooking inside the tiny Carnitas’ Snack Shack, which flaunts a replica of the animal on its roof to lure you to the eatery’s walk-up window. Since its recent debut, owners Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud have been greeted with daily lines by customers who understand the culinary virtues of pork. They cook the meat a few different ways and serve it on their cedar-paneled rear patio along with a short list of other gourmet dishes that change daily.

The carnitas are nothing short of dynamite. Cavin, who worked as executive chef at Kensington Grill, braises the meat in orange juice and Mexican Coke. (The soda differs from the U.S. version in that it’s sweetened with cane sugar rather than corn syrup.) Seven hours later, the roasts are broken into juicy, substantial chunks that land in tacos and tortas.

Pork belly also graces the menu, a welcome surprise considering the unctuous cut is more commonly found in high-end restaurants and at significantly greater prices. Cavin serves the belly in rectangular slabs, replete with the prized fatty layer, the ultra-tender flesh and a thin, crispy sheath on top. In our visit, it was treated delicately with a sweet chili-soy glaze.

“This is like cutting into foie gras,” my companion effused before we encroached on a chubby BLT stacked with grilled Black Forest ham and thick, smoky bacon. The veggie garnishments originate from local farms while all of the hormone-free Duroc pork products come from family farmers in Iowa.

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[ Correction: our chocolate mousse was made by local pastry chef extraordinaire, Ben Rollins, of What’s Ben Baking, who is employed by Cucina Urbana. ]