Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley)

A one hour wait for food? Been there, done that (Burger Week at the original Carnitas Snack Shack in North Park). When the new location opened last year in Del Mar, friend and I anticipated a huge line on Friday night of opening week...

blackboard menu at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

Lucky for us, there were only a few people in front of us. The wait was a mere 5 minutes! What a relief! We checked out the menu including the dessert specials at the front. It was easier to read than the menu behind the counter.

craft sodas in the fountain drink machine at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

This place also has custom sodas in their fountain drink area so I'm sure Dennis would be interested in sampling those!

wall art at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area) wooden wall art at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

The wall art at the Del Mar location includes plenty of pigs. I wonder how long it took for the wooden carving!

triple threat sandwich at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

I ordered the Triple Threat pork sandwich but unfortunately it didn't quite hit the spot for me that day. I think there was too much going on between the pickled bits, listless bacon, fried chop, and the pulled pork, at least for my tastes. I've heard that other people quite enjoyed it, such as Faye's Fork.

pork tacos at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

My friend ordered the Pork Tacos. She said it was good but needed a little something extra because it mainly tasted like meat on a corn tortilla. Well, it mostly IS meat but maybe we should have tried adding the corn relish on the side.

french fries at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

She also ordered the french fries which were definitely an improvement to my overseasoned version from Burger Week. No choking on seasoning dust this time. Still, I have had better, more exciting fries. The side ketchup was more home-made and tasty.

a picture of a picture of a pig on a table at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

Here's friend taking a picture of the engraved piggie on table! And me obviously capturing this awesome moment hehe. We are so easily amused!

Dennis didn't want to wait in any lines so stayed home that night. Nice wifey that I am, I offered to bring something back... I ordered him the Pork Burger that I was originally considering. Unfortunately this one was a bit saltier and didn't quite live up to my expectations from Burger Week. Oh well...

I came back a couple months later with a different friend and decided to give their food another go.

patio of Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

We sat out in their patio this time for both S.D. sunshine and another reason... Usually I make the "[blank] is so cute!" face while reading my friend's posts but this time... lookieeee!

furry friend at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

A special visitor! My friend brought along her adorable pooch Lychee. The patio here is dog friendly and they provide water bowls.

furry friend at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

This little princess was asking for food of course! She got a little bit of pork schnitzel because it was her half birthday. Lucky dog! ;)

Pork Burger insides at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

Anyways, I tried ordering the pork burger again (maybe i hit opening week kinks). The ingredients list was the same as before but this time the patty seemed completely different. In fact, look at the insides! The mixture was more carrot-like and chunky in texture. Now I'm wondering if it was even cooked through! What ever happened to that mystical pork burger from last year?

Pork Belly at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

I also ordered the famous pork belly as an appetizer, as recommended by Kirbie and a few other bloggers. It came with a light salad with sliced radishes. I don't usually eat radishes but these were subtle enough with the veggie shreds.

Pork Belly at Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

Close up because... pork bellyyyy! Mmm, look at that glistening goodness. It looked dark but the char bits were still flavorful. The meat to fat ratio was good and overall quite delicious but not the best I've ever had.

night view of Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley area)

So, after visiting the new location multiple times, I still seem to find it more on the so-so side. They do some things well but the food really hasn't impressed me enough. I don't have the patience to try the North Park line though to see if location matters. I think the best part of these visits was the company. I don't see these two friends often so it was fantastic catching up. At least I've got that! =)

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Carnitas Snack Shack (Carmel Valley)
12873 El Camino Real
Suite M4
San Diego CA 92130

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J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats's picture
Submitted by J.S. @ Sun Dieg... (not verified) on Wed, 07/29/2015 - 8:58am

"listless bacon" = nooo.

I think I'm mostly with you. I like Carnitas Snack Shack but I haven't found that one dish that completely wowed me. I think my favorite might not even have pork in it, the steak sandwich. At the NP location we also had to wait in a horrid line on a super hot day and there were tons of flies trying to share our shady table with us which didn't help. Definitely much easier to grab food at the Del Mar Highlands location. I'm not a huge pork belly person (I know blasphemous) but I did hear that that was one of their best dishes...

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Wed, 07/29/2015 - 9:35am

what? a non-pork dish?! that just means i'll have to try the steak sandwich if friends invite me here. i even tried the triple threat porkiness twice but still not a fan. it makes me sad...

Mary's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Wed, 07/29/2015 - 12:03pm

I haven't been wowed by Carnitas Snack Shack either. Been thinking about going to the location in Carmel Valley since it's not too far from work. I've heard others say the pork belly is the thing to get as well. Eventually I'll get around to it but your post doesn't make me crave it haha.

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Wed, 07/29/2015 - 2:43pm

the pictures were too pretty not to post but i wish i had enjoyed the food a little more. i still want a pork burger like the 'UNICORN' during burger week (as faye would have it) but so far i've struck out twice... maybe i have to wait in a long line for that one... =(

mynameisvida's picture
Submitted by mynameisvida (not verified) on Thu, 08/13/2015 - 5:28pm

That is one cute pooch!

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Sat, 08/15/2015 - 8:40pm

agreed! dog-friendly patios rule!

Faye's picture
Submitted by Faye (not verified) on Fri, 08/14/2015 - 9:00am

I thought this place was fun in the beginning but my last visit there wasn't as memorable. What's up with that pork burger patty. It looks like a pakora. Lychee is too cute and pretty!

How was the parking on your last visit? They're under going HORRIBLE parking construction now (like UTC-style if you know what I mean). We were recently there and saw that they are now partnering up with UBER for a free ride to/from this center. $25 value. FREE.

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Sat, 08/15/2015 - 9:35pm

maybe i should tag carnitas snack shack so they can tell me if it's SUPPOSED to look like that... yay for actually knowing what a pakora is though (thanks world curry). fuzzy puppies always get me oohing!

i haven't been to that plaza in a while but if the parking is UTC construction style, i'm not sure when i'll be back! i'm dreading going to UTC as it is! i still haven't used UBER yet but if i do, i would go through a friend's referral

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Thu, 08/20/2015 - 10:37am

whoa just checked out the link and realized it wasn't a one time thing! i'll have to reconsider signing up in case i go to that plaza!

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