Restaurant Review: Carnitas’ Snack Shack

    Although the parking is terrible in this ‘hood, you can find customers already waiting in line as soon as the eatery’s walk-up window opens at noon. Behind the pint-sized kitchen is a casual cedar-paneled patio, where an approximate 10-minute wait is necessary to get any seats. However, there’s no need to get upset since you’re likely to get those seats before the delicious slow-cooked food is served.

    The condensed pork-plentiful menu changes frequently enough to entertain customers’ palates. Plus, the generous slab of pork in each dish — which certainly opposes the “snack” of the shack’s name — attracts customers even more. Sourcing as much as possible from local farms, this little outdoor eatery succeeds in combining fresh veggie garnishments (the side corn law that accompanies every dish) with hormone-free pork products from family farms in Iowa.

    The Pork Sandwich ($9) is more of a burger, considering it’s stuffed with a “triple threat” of pork (fried-and-battered pork loin, Applewood smoked bacon, and tender pulled pork), pickled relish and Shack aioli. While the juicy pork serves as an excellent repository for the shack’s special aioli, a mayo-corn-tomato-pepper-cilantro mixture, the combination of the separate pork parts and other flavorful ingredients make the sandwich a bit too overpowering. As impossible as it sounds, there is just too much taste — and the poppy seed bun helplessly fails to embrace all these ingredients.

    The Shack Steak Sandwich ($9) is more of a standout, even if it isn’t part of the shack’s famous swine family. Nonetheless, its grilled, tender, boneless rib-eye champions all. Served with pickled Serrano chilies, jalapeno jack cheese, tomatoes and chipotle aioli and planted on jalapeno-cheddar toast, it leaves a pleasant spiciness inside your mouth.  

    For simpler folks, the Shack Burger ($9) — filled with butter lettuce, bacon jam, white cheddar and Shack aioli — tastes a lot plainer than the list of ingredients implies. Although the meat is very fulfilling and every bite is enjoyable, it has a rather ordinary taste for the price.

    The Side Fries ($2.50) are thin, fresh-cut and seasoned with locally produced “Baker Shake” seasoning salt. They come stuffed in a small paper bag that matches the carefree atmosphere of the shack. Although the seasoning salt tastes a lot like top ramen powder, the fries are quite addicting. The fresh house-made ketchup that comes along is a good pairing too.

    But it’s still all about the pork. So when craving a gourmet sandwich that is full (and we mean full) of flavors, Carnitas’ Snack Shack is surely a place to hit up for a casual lunch with friends over the weekend.

    — Ashley Kwon

    Contributing Writer 

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