Carnitas Snack Shack
BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Carnitas’ Snack Shack has locations all over San Diego. The original North Park location opened in 2011 and next came Carmel Valley. But my latest visit was to the Embarcadero location near the Broadway Pier. It doesn’t matter if you are local or visiting… you must stop by here and enjoy the view, the cocktails and, of course, some pig. Ha!
Chef Cavin’s commitment to serve ethically-sourced food is a big part of what makes Carnitas’ Snack Shack one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. They source both produce and proteins from local boutique farms raising natural, pasteurized pork and all-natural, cage-free poultry… and you can taste it in every bite. That is music to my ears!
The first thing you notice as you walk up is the beautiful open-air design and extensive patio – exactly what you are looking for in America’s finest city. Just check out the photography and you will see exactly what I mean.
We rolled right on up to the 28-seat bar and ordered some Top Cali Craft Beer, of course! The specialty cocktail and wine list here is amazing – so all you have to do is pick what you like best and you are sure to enjoy. Cheers!
One of the many things I love about San Diego is that you really don’t have to hurry. With the most beautiful weather, people, sounds and views… you can just sit back and relax.
If you are from out of town, keep in mind that Carnitas’ Snack Shack is just a couple of miles from the airport. I highly suggest that when you arrive, you make this beautiful restaurant your first stop!
After a few friends showed up – and a number of cocktails later – we decided to let the games begin.
To get things started, we ordered two of my favorite appetizers: the Beet Terrine and the Pork Belly App. Both are ahhmazing choices, by the way.
The Beet Terrine is a delicious combo of roasted beets, goat cheese and spinach drizzled with a balsamic glaze. I have to admit I am not the biggest fan of beets, but the way they are prepared here is like no other beet dish I have ever tasted. The goat cheese and balsamic glaze make it outstanding. Do try!
The Pork Belly App is perfectly built with braised Duroc pork, sweet-spicy glaze, frisée salad, apples, radishes and lemon vinaigrette. Just take a look at the photography and let me know if it doesn’t make your mouth water. The crispy pork along with the sweet and spicy glaze provides an unbelievable sweet and savory flavor that will have you coming back again and again.
The incredible bartender suggested we pair the Pork Belly App along with a specialty drink called “Put a Pork in it” – a special adult beverage made with Old Forester Bourbon, applejack, apple dram and cherry-apple bitters. Well, that is exactly what we did and I highly recommend you do the same!
Now for the mains… first up was one of my go-tos here at Carnitas’ Snack Shack. The Triple Threat Pork Sandwich is piled high with all the porky pieces you love: pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork and bacon with a healthy portion of Pepperoncini Relish and Shack Aioli. It really doesn’t get much better than this if you love the pig as much as I do! I literally have to smash it all down, cut it in half and then get after it. You can taste all the flavors in every single bite. I am in love with this sandwich… LOVE!!!
When you live in Southern California, you are VERY aware of Carnitas Tacos. The Carnitas Tacos here at Carnitas’ Snack Shack are a little different – a little better. The pork carnitas are extremely tender and will actually make your mouth pucker. The fresh guacamole salsa adds to the blissful flavors of the slowly-cooked pork. And the corn tortillas bring out every flavor – which drives me nuts! Squirt a bit a lime on it all and I am in hog heaven! No pun intended. Ha!
If you are looking for something a little different, then I suggest you grab the fresh Mahi-Mahi Tacos. Made with grilled blackened mahi-mahi, mixed greens, tartar sauce and arugula – these tasty fish tacos are as good as any you will find in the area. They’re a little bit lighter than some of the pork dishes Carnitas’ Snack Shack is known for, but oh sooooooo GOOD! It just feels right to have a little Mahi in your life as you watch the sunset over Point Loma while listening to the seagulls call your name. Puts a smile in on my face… this is paradise.
Now… to finish things off. As if our pork extravaganza wasn’t enough, it was time for dessert. If you can save room for it, you must try the Salted Toffee Brownie. It’s made with dark chocolate fudge, toffee, sea salt and bittersweet ganache. This delectable dessert was so sweet with chocolate that I was immediately addicted. You know how it is when you say you are going to just try a little bite – just a tiny taste – and then you find yourself going in for another… and another… and another. Ha! Yep, that’s what happened! The toffee and sea salt provides that extra touch that has me coming by with special friends just for a dessert, a drink and a sunset. It doesn’t get much better.
I just love Carnitas’ Snack Shack in general, but I have to say that the Embarcadero location is my favorite of the three. Although you will find the same consistency at all the locations, the ambiance here is SOMETHING SPECIAL! But don’t just take this pig’s word for it – try it for yourself. Oink Oink!
Good Eats San Diego Recommends…
Local beets/ goat cheese/ spinach/ balsamic glaze
Paired with: Bonterra Organic Mendocino Sauv Blanc
Crisp acidity gives the wine a fresh vibrant feel with flavors of grapefruit, lime zest and grass that closes with favors of melon and a nice tart finish
Pork Belly App
Braised duroc pork/ sweet-spicy glaze/ frisée salad/ apples/ radish/ lemon vinaigrette
Paired with: Put A Pork In It
Old forester bourbon/ applejack/ apple dram/ cherry apple bitters
Triple Threat Pork Sandwich
pork loin schnitzel/ pulled pork/ bacon/ pepperoncini relish/ shack aioli
Paired with: Societe Harlot Belgium Pale Ale
Belgian Pale Ale style beer
Carnitas Tacos (2)
Tender pork carnitas/ standard accompaniments
Crispy Chicken Sandwich
chive aioli/ 5 pepper marmalade/ brioche bun
Both paired with: Smoke On The Bay
Mezcal/ pineapple-infused tequila/ tamarind syrup/ lime
Grilled Blackened Mahi Mahi/ Mixed Greens/ Tartar Sauce/ Arugula/ Sourdough Bread
Paired with: Modelo Especial
American Adjunct Lager style beer
Salted Toffee Brownie
Dark chocolate fudge/ toffee/ sea salt/ bittersweet ganache
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
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