One pound of carnitas goodness
  • One pound of carnitas goodness
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Carnitas Uruapan

4233 Spring Street, La Mesa

On a corner lot in La Mesa, a block from busy I-94 and sharing a tight parking lot with a dry cleaner, stands a brightly colored brick house called Carnitas Uruapan Mexican food. Emphasis on “carnitas.” My dad started coming here in the late 1980s, but I had never tried it.

When I arrived, it was after dark and the place was jumping. A woman was cooking beef on a barbeque in front of the entrance and speaking Spanish into a cell phone. While she flipped the meat, patrons patiently stood in line for street tacos. There is also a drive-through, but it’s at a weird angle. Besides, going inside can be a treat for people watchers.

Carnitas Uruapan

Carnitas Uruapan

There’s plenty to choose from on the menu, such as rolled tacos and burritos. I ordered the carnitas dinner for two, which is one pound of lean pork marinated with fresh oranges, garlic, and spices, cooked in its own juices for eight hours or more, plus refried beans, tortillas, rice, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. The cost is $11.

While I waited for the order to go, a steady stream of customers came in and out, picking up pre-ordered food or waiting patiently at wooden tables, watching a TV on a Spanish station hanging on the colorful wall over the salsa bar.

Waiting for your food is part of the fun.

Waiting for your food is part of the fun.

The young woman at the counter helped me decipher a few items that I hadn’t heard of, such as carne divorciada. That’s fried pork belly with verde salsa separated by rice and beans. I should have known.

The state of Michoacán is known for its carnitas. The owners, Margaret and Rogelio Rodriguez, are from that region and established this restaurant in 1986.

When my food arrived I rushed home to try it, spreading out a handmade flour tortilla and filling it with the meat, toppings, and their housemade chipotle salsa.

The carnitas were tender and moist, encased by a crunchy, bacon-like exterior. I realized that I hadn’t had pork this good since Old Town Mexican Café (before the tourists discovered it).

The beans and rice were also good, with just enough chili and garlic powder, the flavor I’m used to from authentic Mexican restaurants. The tomatoes were fresh, and the onion was not overpowering. I had seconds on the pork and then, I’m embarrassed to say, thirds.

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Comments

Ponzi Nov. 20, 2015 @ 8:33 p.m.

Your dad would have never visited that place in the 1980's It's only been there for a few years. Hector closed the original US-side Carnitas Uruapan when his mother passed away. He let former cooks take the name and open up on Spring Street. If you father ever visited the authentic Carnitas Uruapan, if would have been in Tijuana, in the 80'sd.

I await your reply.

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CandiceRReed Nov. 23, 2015 @ 5:35 p.m.

Hey there Ponzi- my dad did go there in the late 80's. And if you check their website you will see it's been there quite a while. "Carnitas Uruapan was established in the year 1986 by owners Mrs. Margaret and Mr. Rogelio Rodriguez. To bring us the taste of a delicious pork carnitas brought to you from Michoacan. After 21 year's of work, commitment and dedication earning the trust and affection of the Rodriguez family, Marco Rodriguez was given the honor to continue with the tradition to proceed for many years to come too keep bringing people the pleasant joy to eat Carnitas Uruapan traditional food." The translation is a little off, but you get the gist. I also asked the young woman at the counter how long they had been there, so she confirmed the info from the website, I don't know what to tell you. I asked and got the info. If it's not correct it's because my two sources steered me wrong. It's still a great place. Thank you!

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