530 Grand Avenue, Carlsbad
Barrio Eat Mexican isn’t exactly in the Carlsbad barrio, but the tastes are as close to authentic Mexican street food as you can get in North County coastal.
For many, the street fish taco is the go-to Mexican food item, but I am all about the pig. As a native San Diegan, carnitas were first introduced to me at Old Town Mexican Café, but since then have I enjoyed discovering pork tacos that are not made en masse for the tourists in Old Town. The carnitas street taco at Barrio Eat Mexican is the best I’ve had.
The taco ($4.75 each) came with fresh pico de gallo, tiny chopped red onions, and a large scoop of fresh guacamole, but it was the pork that made the taco. Tender marinated pork braised and fried just so, mildly crispy, and spread out in a soft corn tortilla with a side of verde sauce — exactly what I wanted. When I ate the whole thing in three bites I didn’t feel like such a gringa.
Feeling brave, I ordered a margarita, and although tequila and I don’t see eye-to-eye anymore, the drink was better than I remember a margarita should be so north of the border. The friendly bartender made the drink in front of me with fresh-squeezed lime, organic agave nectar, and the house tequila of Torado. It went down way too fast, making me realize that there is more to tequila than Cuervo. I only wanted one, remembering my past tequila adventures.
My friend asked for a special plate of fajitas and carrots — that’s all she wanted — and it arrived as ordered. I took a bite of the grilled chicken and then another. It was moist, marinated chicken, and the vegetables were organic, crisp, and fresh.
The chips that were brought to us upon sitting down were bottomless and made in-house, and the salsa had just enough of a kick without starting a small fire in my mouth.
Before we left, our bartender gave me a taster of the house sangria that she makes daily and infused with Cabernet, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Papa’s Pilar rum, Tito’s vodka, and fruit juices.
“It packs a punch,” she said watching me as I drank the Spanish beverage. “And there’s no tequila in it.”