I received one of those letters a while ago—the one from my doctor that very politely told me to get off my ass and eat healthier because my cholesterol level needed improvement. Since this is my second consecutive column on pork, I clearly haven’t cut it out of my diet. However, I do insist that it be excellent when I consume it, or else I’m wasting valuable aortic space on mediocrity.
In comes Carnitas Snack Shack (2632 University Ave. in North Park), where the pork is so good that it almost doesn’t need to be seasoned. Located where Vo’s Café used to be, it’s a welcome replacement for the neighborhood stop that dispensed delicious Vietnamese takeout. Chef Hanis Cavin and general manager Sara Stroud revamped the small building, replacing the patio with a stunning wood-paneled seating area that includes tables and counter seating.
The menu features everything from a burger to banh mi. The Pork Sand(wich) is a delightful mélange of pork prepared three ways—breaded pork-loin schnitzel, bacon strips and pulled pork, piled between freshly baked buns. Crispy and flavorful, it’s topped with a pepperoncini-pickle relish and served with the Shack aioli, a mayo-corn-tomato-pepper-cilantro mixture that I nearly ate alone with a spoon. The Carnitas tacos showcase the amazing Duroc pork sourced from family farmers in Iowa (vanderosefarms.com) and is an excellent repository for that aioli. The most devoted pork lovers should note that there’s glazed pork belly on the menu. Pork belly speaks for itself, so I’ll stop there.
Carnitas focuses on locally sourced and sustainably raised ingredients whenever possible, and it shows in the flavorful dishes. If you want a departure from pork, there’s the Shack Burger and the Beef Sand. To break up the parade of protein, there are veggies on the menu. I happen to love the fact that they’re two of my favorites: eggplant and Brussels sprouts.
What I really love about Carnitas is that it serves good food within walking distance of my home and between noon and midnight, meaning I have a tasty and close source for a late dinner.
With apologies to my doctor, of course.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Marie blogs at meanderingeats.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @MeanderingEats.