Justin O'Connell 4:30 p.m., Jan. 24
Carnitas' Snack Shack
The long-awaited (why does opening a business take so much time?) pork love-child of Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud, Carnitas' Snack Shack, has finally opened. Here's the low-down -- Hanis was the head chef at Kensington Grill for, like, ever. Okay, it was five years, but, as with dog years, in chef time that's a lot. Sara has managed all over town, from Cohn restaurants to Urban Kitchen.
(That's Hanis on the left, Sara on the right, and Sara behind the pig mask below.)
Now, about the name. You might remember the stories I wrote about their real-life porker pet, Carnitas the pot-bellied pig. It was their beloved pet, and their mutual love of pork that inspired Sara and Hanis to open the shack and name it after their hefty little boy.
The shack's real-live mascot will be making guest appearances, each of which will be announced on the shack's Twitter and Facebook pages beforehand. But the ever-changing menu is posted daily on both those two pages, and the shack's web site. Speaking of food...
In Sara's words, those at the shack revere pork. "We worship pig," she told me. Therefore, most snacks are pork-centric, and pork-plentiful. Take the recurring menu item, the pork sandwich -- shaved pork, pork cutlet, and bacon, smashed into a bun with pepperoncini relish.
The pork belly, which David thought "was perfect," is also likely to be on the menu. "We took that off the menu for one day and had angry phone calls," Sara said.
Hanis says the shack is going through 180 pounds of pork a week. "I thought we'd have more testing time, but we're revealing new things every day," he said. All of the meat is sourced from Hamilton Meats & Provisions, known for its "sustainably farmed products." Veggies and other ingredients are mostly found at local Farmers Markets, which Hanis and Sara try to hit up daily. "We're not trying to cheese out on vegetarians and vegans," Sara says. "We're trying to make it upscale for them." Every day, the board features one vegetarian (sometimes vegan) dish. Today's was roasted zucchini and squash with roasted peppers.
I tried the steak sandwich on a delicious jalapeno bread (which I learned, as with all of their bread, was made locally by Joanne Sherif of Hearty Bread.
Another tasty dish (though I only managed a few bites) was the poutine -- french fries smothered in white cheddar gravy, then topped with shredded pork and crisp bacon. Like, really.
The shack is just that, very small. But there is plenty of space out back to sit and eat, a warm wooden patio designed by Jared Bradley and custom built by Jeff Foss. Bradley also designed the remodel of the Linkery.
Right now, all beverages are Mexican, meaning the kind with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. But it should only be a few weeks before the shack is also offering beer and wine, which I imagine will go well with those decadent dishes.
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