Written by: Alexandra Lotzgeselle
Carnitas Snack Shack is a fast casual restaurant that I have loved for many years, but have been hesitant to post about. I’ve probably been there close to two dozen times, and every single time the meal is flawless. However, this is not a hidden jem. Most of the time we go to their flagship North Park location, the line is nearly a block long. So after pondering whether or not I really wanted to add to that line and share my favorite casual restaurant, I decided that they have given me so much satisfaction over the past few years, that it would be unfair of me to keep my love (eh, obsession) to myself! There are three locations- North Park, Del Mar Highlands, and Embarcadero. Each menu varies slightly, but for the most part, they all have the staple items. For this trip, we went to the Del Mar location.
Carnitas Snack Shack is sort of like a modern take on California-Mexican food. They use clean, fresh, and locally sourced ingredients while never sacrificing taste. The selections are simple and you never need to alter or change them at all. They are perfect just the way they are. While I have tried and loved nearly every staple menu item (don’t judge) I do have a few favorites!
First of all, if you’re going for the first time, or taking someone there from out of town, I highly suggest…no, I demand that you start with the Pork Belly App. It’s simple. Just a perfectly cooked portion of pork belly drenched in some sort of sweet glaze from God served alongside a frisee salad with thin slices of apple lightly dressed in a lemon-vinaigrette. I swear to you, I’m salivating just thinking about it. It hits all the good notes- sweet, tangy, savory perfection. Oh, and that delectable dish will only set you back about nine bucks! It’s perfect to share and I have never had anything like it.
Per usual, I got the Carnitas Tacos. You get two substantially stuffed tacos (or you can get it in torta form) for less than nine bucks, and I normally only eat one and take the other to go. They’re served with a simple pico de gallo and guacamole, and all main dishes are also served with an insane little corn salad type side. I love corn, and this really is my favorite little side there and always leaves me craving a vat of it! Everything about this dish is satisfying. Normally, no matter what I order in terms of traditional Mexican food, I always feel like crap after. Everything is always so greasy and you know they are not using top quality ingredients. Carnitas Snack Shack is different. You’re going to get top quality, locally sourced seasonal food for a very fair price.
This trip, my husband tried their Mahi sandwich for the first time, and it totally spinned me around! I’m someone who always gets the same thing no matter where I go, and I don’t like to risk trying new dishes at my favorite restaurants. However, I took one bite of his, and wondered why I had waited so long to try this! Everything about this sandwich from the overall flavor, bread to fish ration, and temperature at which it is served is complete perfection. After trying it, I can say for the first time in years that I have a new favorite CSS dish.
Now, know matter what sort of diet we are on or how stuffed I am, I will never go to CSS without getting the fries. They have some sort of Chesapeake Bay type seasoning on them and come with a side of bacon ketchup that you won’t be able to get enough of. I love my husband with all my heart, but whenever we go to CSS and he says he doesn’t want his own fries, then starts eyeing mine, I genuinely wonder if I made a mistake marrying him or not. These fries are, without a doubt, the best fries I have ever had.
No matter what you order here, you can’t go wrong. I am far from a BLT fan, but every now and then I get a craving for theirs. It comes packed sky-high with obviously lettuce and tomato, bacon, crispy ham, their “shack aioli” and is layered between two perfectly delectable slices of brioche bread. If you are normally a fan of BLT’s, I promise this will be the best one you’ll ever try. Looking for something truly unique and a little bit naughty? Go with the famous Triple Threat Sandwich- bacon, pulled pork, and pork loin schnitzel with their shack aioli and pepperoncini relish. It is a pork-lover’s paradise and will leave you full and satisfied while also hoping no one just saw you devour it.
There’s never a time where I would turn down an opportunity to eat here. I would never not “be in the mood” for it. There are just some things in life that are always perfect and satisfying. Always. Carnitas Snack Shack is a meat-lover’s heaven and the only downside is that once you go there, you’ll be inflicted with an insatiable desire to eat there again and again and again.