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East County pork excursion

Sarita's Taco Shop
Sarita's Taco Shop

Carnitas Uruapan

Place

Carnitas Uruapan

4233 Spring Street, La Mesa

“One ($2.50) crispy carnitas taco, please.” “Crispy taco, or crispy carnitas?” Because when you’re this good with pig meat, it could go either way. I chose the taco, because nowhere else have I encountered soft carnitas this soft; it melts on the tongue like cotton candy. Rich, meaty cotton candy. The prep is ungussied — mostly lettuce, a smattering of cheese and tomatoes — because nothing else is needed. Except maybe the smoky chipotle salsa. Weekend pork bonus: 99-cent tacos al pastor, Friday-Saturday-Sunday, 5pm to close.

Place

Ranas

9683 Campo Road, Spring Valley

Ranas Mexico City Cuisine

Bright and slightly upscale, Ranas is more restaurant than taco shop: you get waiters and an interesting wine list, and there are no à la carte tacos on the menu. Two carnitas tacos with rice and beans costs $10, but it’s easily lunch for two, and it’s worth the expense. Tender (really) corn tortillas surround strandy strips of roasty-firm meat with caramelized edges, moist interiors, and crackly fatlings. All the flavors ­— corn, meat, guac, cilantro, onions, etc. — remain distinct even as they harmonize.

Place

Sarita’s Taco Shop

9906 Campo Road, Spring Valley

Sarita’s Taco Shop

The justly successful (granite tabletops! stainless counters!) 24-hour standby for (among other things) adobada tacos ($3.39). The quantity is heroic; using the two tortillas to make tacos for two just makes sense. And the experience is similarly unsubtle, which makes it perfect late-night fare. (This is not a secret; the after-hours crowd is watchably eclectic.) The main thing here is the interplay of salty spice and crispy, curling meat against the cool smoothness of the guacamole. It’s enough to make a body thirsty all over again.

Place

Posta de Acapulco

9914 Campo Road, Spring Valley

La Posta De Acapulco

Just two doors down from Sarita’s, the adobada taco ($3.25) here is a more complicated and, yes, more delicate affair. A smaller serving, with smaller chunks of pork. Less crispy-salty, more smoky-charry. And more clearly porky. Lettuce plays a part. If Sarita’s is perfect for late at night, the apple green, high-ceilinged, air-conditioned interior of La Posta is just right for a blazing East County afternoon. Even a single taco rates you a platter of substantial chips while you wait and watch the world go by.

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Sarita's Taco Shop
Sarita's Taco Shop

Carnitas Uruapan

Place

Carnitas Uruapan

4233 Spring Street, La Mesa

“One ($2.50) crispy carnitas taco, please.” “Crispy taco, or crispy carnitas?” Because when you’re this good with pig meat, it could go either way. I chose the taco, because nowhere else have I encountered soft carnitas this soft; it melts on the tongue like cotton candy. Rich, meaty cotton candy. The prep is ungussied — mostly lettuce, a smattering of cheese and tomatoes — because nothing else is needed. Except maybe the smoky chipotle salsa. Weekend pork bonus: 99-cent tacos al pastor, Friday-Saturday-Sunday, 5pm to close.

Place

Ranas

9683 Campo Road, Spring Valley

Ranas Mexico City Cuisine

Bright and slightly upscale, Ranas is more restaurant than taco shop: you get waiters and an interesting wine list, and there are no à la carte tacos on the menu. Two carnitas tacos with rice and beans costs $10, but it’s easily lunch for two, and it’s worth the expense. Tender (really) corn tortillas surround strandy strips of roasty-firm meat with caramelized edges, moist interiors, and crackly fatlings. All the flavors ­— corn, meat, guac, cilantro, onions, etc. — remain distinct even as they harmonize.

Place

Sarita’s Taco Shop

9906 Campo Road, Spring Valley

Sarita’s Taco Shop

The justly successful (granite tabletops! stainless counters!) 24-hour standby for (among other things) adobada tacos ($3.39). The quantity is heroic; using the two tortillas to make tacos for two just makes sense. And the experience is similarly unsubtle, which makes it perfect late-night fare. (This is not a secret; the after-hours crowd is watchably eclectic.) The main thing here is the interplay of salty spice and crispy, curling meat against the cool smoothness of the guacamole. It’s enough to make a body thirsty all over again.

Place

Posta de Acapulco

9914 Campo Road, Spring Valley

La Posta De Acapulco

Just two doors down from Sarita’s, the adobada taco ($3.25) here is a more complicated and, yes, more delicate affair. A smaller serving, with smaller chunks of pork. Less crispy-salty, more smoky-charry. And more clearly porky. Lettuce plays a part. If Sarita’s is perfect for late at night, the apple green, high-ceilinged, air-conditioned interior of La Posta is just right for a blazing East County afternoon. Even a single taco rates you a platter of substantial chips while you wait and watch the world go by.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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