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A second home for Uruapan carnitas

Acclaimed La Mesa taco shop spins off a family restaurant

Same beloved Uruapan carnitas, served in a much larger location. This quarter pound carnitas taco goes for $3.50.
Same beloved Uruapan carnitas, served in a much larger location. This quarter pound carnitas taco goes for $3.50.

“Family owned and operated since 1986,” it says on the hard-cover menu. Actually, this place, Carnitas Uruapan Family Restaurant, opened little more than a year ago, on that section of El Cajon Boulevard that sits midway between the College Area and La Mesa. However, the table-service eatery is sister restaurant to Carnitas Uruapan Mexican Food, and it’s that La Mesa counter shop fans have raved and written about for nearly four decades now.

Place

Carnitas Uruapan Family Restaurant

7149 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego

Uruapan is the name of a city in the Mexican state of Michoacán, the birthplace of carnitas, and its namesake taco shop earned its following for consistently serving some of the best in San Diego, long overachieving out of a small, single-room space near the 94 freeway.

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I’ve paid regular visits for years, sometimes dining in, more often ordering from a makeshift drive-thru lane squeezed into its narrow parking lot. If I wasn’t sure what the differences between the original shop and the newer “family restaurant” might be, I would sure spot them the moment I arrived.

The entire, original Carnitas Uruapan taco shop dining room could fit inside any of the three dining rooms of its family restaurant

The newer location is four or five times the size of the original, featuring three distinct dining rooms and a separate bar. At this Carnitas Uruapan, you wait to be seated; a server takes your order at the table; and rather than a menu board mounted above the pick-up counter, there’s this hard-cover book.

Regulars will find plenty of overlap between the two menus, except the family restaurant offers fewer burritos, more seafood dishes. It’s the type of place you’re more likely to order combo plates, served with rice and beans, and typically between 12 and 15 dollars. Such combos have long been available at the original location, but I’ve never thought to order one before.

A hard-cover menu, rather than wall-mounted menu board

Maybe I should have: the rice and beans are outstanding. Some of these plates make simple meals out of pork chops, chili verde, or ranchero steak. Other plates are true combinations, featuring some assortment of enchilada, taco, tamal, or chile relleno. If you have trouble deciding, try sharing the sampler plate, which offers one of each, plus a sope and half pound of carnitas for $29.50.

Of course, being the specialty of the house, a carnitas plate is always a safe bet (half pound for $7.50, one pound for $14.50). Less safe but more adventurous would be one of Uruapan’s other pork specialties: chicharrones ($4.50/$9) or buche ($5.75/$11.50). If you haven’t yet acquired a taste for pork skin and stomach, respectively, you can always hedge on the Cochi Plate, which features all three pork dishes for $14.50.

Shredded beef enchilada and pork tamale combo plate

To be honest, a broad range of dishes means they tend to be hit or miss. I was a little let down by a pork tamal, satisfied but ambivalent toward an order of green pozole, and uncharacteristically impressed by a shredded beef enchilada.

However, I think it’s worth poking around the menu to find the gems, especially because you can salvage any meal for a mere, $3.50 investment. That’s how much it costs to order a carnitas taco, a la carte. And this is not a street taco: rather, a seven-inch corn tortilla packed with no less than a quarter pound of Uruapan’s superb pulled pork, plus diced onions and guacamole. In other words, the best bang-for-your-buck taco in the entire San Diego region.

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Same beloved Uruapan carnitas, served in a much larger location. This quarter pound carnitas taco goes for $3.50.
Same beloved Uruapan carnitas, served in a much larger location. This quarter pound carnitas taco goes for $3.50.

“Family owned and operated since 1986,” it says on the hard-cover menu. Actually, this place, Carnitas Uruapan Family Restaurant, opened little more than a year ago, on that section of El Cajon Boulevard that sits midway between the College Area and La Mesa. However, the table-service eatery is sister restaurant to Carnitas Uruapan Mexican Food, and it’s that La Mesa counter shop fans have raved and written about for nearly four decades now.

Place

Carnitas Uruapan Family Restaurant

7149 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego

Uruapan is the name of a city in the Mexican state of Michoacán, the birthplace of carnitas, and its namesake taco shop earned its following for consistently serving some of the best in San Diego, long overachieving out of a small, single-room space near the 94 freeway.

Sponsored
Sponsored

I’ve paid regular visits for years, sometimes dining in, more often ordering from a makeshift drive-thru lane squeezed into its narrow parking lot. If I wasn’t sure what the differences between the original shop and the newer “family restaurant” might be, I would sure spot them the moment I arrived.

The entire, original Carnitas Uruapan taco shop dining room could fit inside any of the three dining rooms of its family restaurant

The newer location is four or five times the size of the original, featuring three distinct dining rooms and a separate bar. At this Carnitas Uruapan, you wait to be seated; a server takes your order at the table; and rather than a menu board mounted above the pick-up counter, there’s this hard-cover book.

Regulars will find plenty of overlap between the two menus, except the family restaurant offers fewer burritos, more seafood dishes. It’s the type of place you’re more likely to order combo plates, served with rice and beans, and typically between 12 and 15 dollars. Such combos have long been available at the original location, but I’ve never thought to order one before.

A hard-cover menu, rather than wall-mounted menu board

Maybe I should have: the rice and beans are outstanding. Some of these plates make simple meals out of pork chops, chili verde, or ranchero steak. Other plates are true combinations, featuring some assortment of enchilada, taco, tamal, or chile relleno. If you have trouble deciding, try sharing the sampler plate, which offers one of each, plus a sope and half pound of carnitas for $29.50.

Of course, being the specialty of the house, a carnitas plate is always a safe bet (half pound for $7.50, one pound for $14.50). Less safe but more adventurous would be one of Uruapan’s other pork specialties: chicharrones ($4.50/$9) or buche ($5.75/$11.50). If you haven’t yet acquired a taste for pork skin and stomach, respectively, you can always hedge on the Cochi Plate, which features all three pork dishes for $14.50.

Shredded beef enchilada and pork tamale combo plate

To be honest, a broad range of dishes means they tend to be hit or miss. I was a little let down by a pork tamal, satisfied but ambivalent toward an order of green pozole, and uncharacteristically impressed by a shredded beef enchilada.

However, I think it’s worth poking around the menu to find the gems, especially because you can salvage any meal for a mere, $3.50 investment. That’s how much it costs to order a carnitas taco, a la carte. And this is not a street taco: rather, a seven-inch corn tortilla packed with no less than a quarter pound of Uruapan’s superb pulled pork, plus diced onions and guacamole. In other words, the best bang-for-your-buck taco in the entire San Diego region.

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