As you pass Carnitas’ Snack Shack while driving down University in North Park, you may ask yourself, “What is this little place?” But you keep driving (you probably passed it before you actually noticed it), though the line of hungry people outside subtly tells you that you really should have stopped. Well, you should stop, turn around and go back. Or firmly plan to make it your next dinner destination. This so-called “snack shack” is not one of the many take-out Mexican spots in the area (as the name might suggest), but surprisingly, and randomly, all well-crafted, farm-to-table comfort goodness. Or farm-to-bag-to-table, depending on whether you take it home, or sit outside in Carnitas’ also unexpected, minimal, mid-century-style seating pavilion that Dwell would love, tucked away into the side of the building, complete with horizontal wooden slats, recessed can lights and patio heaters.
The last thing you would expect to see upon walking around the side of the building. Photo by Bauman Photographers.
Chef Hanis Cavin (who had worked at Kensington Grill and helped open Chive) and Sara Stroud (who previously managed Kensington Grill, Cucina Urbana and Wine Steals) opened Carnitas’ together just last December. The place is named after and inspired by their adorable pet mini pig, Carnitas Speck, who happens to enjoy a bit of YouTube stardom. And with such a name attached to its mascot, of course Carnitas’ Snack Shack features tons of humanely raised pork on the menu, which changes daily.
This little piggy is for loving, not for eating.
Carnitas’ only uses seasonal ingredients, and about sourcing their meat, Stroud explains, “We do source locally for everything but our meat. There is little to no local pork sourcing and it would be hard for one small farm to cover our demand. We use a coop of small farms from Colorado for our pork. It’s all natural and humanely treated (just like our pet, Carnitas.)”
Stroud also told us about why they chose to go a non-traditional route with their “Snack Shack” as opposed to a typical restaurant space. “We picked our location primarily because it’s the neighborhood we live in, and we wanted to give our area more options for late night dining,” she explains. “We decided on a smaller space because we wanted to create the ‘shack’ feeling and since we were financing ourselves, we opted for less overhead than a traditional sit down place.”
Carnitas’ Snack Shack is open from noon to midnight, and closed on Tuesdays. Like Carnitas’ on Facebook to see their daily menu postings
. It’s a perfect spot to grab lunch, a multi-course dinner (which I like to take home and enjoy on my couch with a movie), or a semi-late-night snack. And they also have a fancy selection of sodas, one of my own top weaknesses, right up there with pork belly.
Slow-braised pork belly with a sweet-spicy glaze, served with frisée, radish, apple salad.
Sara Stroud behind the window, beside a dessert menu featuring a bacon brittle ice cream sandwich. Photo by Bauman Photographers