Pig Out at Carnitas Snack Shack

Posted by Shawn | Posted in American, BBQ | Posted on 09-04-2012

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Shack Pork Sandwich at Carnitas Snack Shack

Can I start by saying I never think of clever titles so when this post’s title came to mind, I pumped my fist in the air (I know it’s not that clever but it is for me!). Ok now that I got that little self promotion out of the way, let’s talk about Carnitas Snack Shack – my favorite lunch spot in North Park at the moment. Located on the side of University it’s not hard to miss with the giant pig on the roof and the usual line of people on the sidewalk. Lunchtime gets busy here and seating is limited so be prepared to stand a bit. That said, the food is seriously worth it.

The Line at Carnitas Snack Shack

The menu offers plenty of pork from their Shack Pork Sandwich (featured at the top) with pork schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon and pepperoncini pickle relish to their Carnitas Tacos with marinated pulled pork, fresh tomatoes and guacamole. If you love pork, you will not be disappointed. If you do not like pork however, well… I hear Sipz is a nice vegetarian option down the street.

The Menu at Carnitas Snack Shack

Prices are a bit higher for the portions but then again the quality here is so good that it makes up for it in my mind. See the menu above for an idea of what lunch will run you at Carnitas. The place is also pretty small with seating around back and a walk up window on the street. I think it’s part of the charm though that I’ve come to expect from a California taco stand or beachside burger joint.

Tacos at Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas doesn’t serve beer or any alcohol at the moment but being in the beer capital of the US and so close to 30th St., they have already applied for their liquor permit and they should be serving local beer by June. Combine some craft brews with two of those dangerously good tacos and you’ll probably find me here any day of the week.

Ordering Window at Carnitas Snack ShackChris ordering at the window on University in North Park.

Mural at Carnitas Snack ShackA reminder that you’re eating pork.

Carnitas Tacos in North ParkClose-up of the marinated pulled pork in their tacos.. delicious.

Kevin KnechtKevin Knecht – This is how he does tacos.

Solid BBQ in San Diego – From A Food Truck?

Posted by Shawn | Posted in BBQ, Food Trucks | Posted on 08-12-2011

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Porky Fries from Mr. Pig's BBQ in San Diego

That’s right, every Sunday in front of the Tavern in Pacific Beach you can get good pork or brisket right from a food truck called Mr. Pig’s BBQ. Operating out of a conventional truck named The Pig Mobile, brothers Bill and Pete work a two-man business that seems to be doing well with fans. The menu is smaller with only 2 sandwiches and 3 sides to choose from but when I visited there was a healthy showing of happy customers.

The Pig Mobile - BBQ in San Diego

I decided to order the Brisket sandwich which had been dry-rubbed and smoked for a full 24 hours using oak and hickory. Seeing that they had pork as a side too, I also went with the PorkyFries which was smothered with their traditional barbecue sauce and green onions. Both tasted pretty good and I thought the fries had a great flavor from the sauce. I was happy they decided to not load the fries with cheese or anything else since BBQ should really focus on the meat. As for the brisket sandwich it also packed a great smoky taste, but the owners cut the brisket a little too much in my opinion. I like my brisket to be in more of a slice shape than cubed but regardless it was still good (I’m getting too picky!).

Bikes and BBQ - Pacific Beach

After eating I chatted with the owners a bit and they really seem like sincere guys who want people to enjoy good food on the street. Coming from North Carolina and also living in Texas, they have a fun combination of styles to their food and it’s most apparent in their sauces. Sticking with their original plan, they decided to make both a Carolina style sauce which is vinegar based and a thicker sauce found more often in the South. Bill told me the sauces alone took hours to make and top that with smoking your meat for a day and you have a hard schedule to run a business off of… but that was all part of the appeal for me. Since food trucks often have to guess the demand they’ll have, they sometimes run out of part of their menu and when you have to prepare everything days ahead of time it becomes more difficult. It’s this reason that you typically don’t see BBQ food trucks but with a small menu these guys have it figured out.

BBQ Fries from Mr. Pig's BBQ in San Diego

I’m happy to see Mr. Pig’s BBQ doing well and I’ll definitely be headed back one of these Sundays. Next time I’m trying the Pulled Pork sandwich and getting my hands on their Apple Pie.

Tip: You can follow The Pig Mobile on Twitter to find where they’ll be next @thepigmobile.

Mr. Pig’s BBQ
760-214-7336

Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue

Posted by Shawn | Posted in BBQ | Posted on 05-11-2010

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Pork Ribs

Opened in 2009 and featured in the news quite a bit recently, I’m late to the party when it comes to talking about Bryan’s BBQ.  If you haven’t heard of this place however, let this review be the one that convinces you to go.  It is worth the trip.  For items priced around $8-10 you can get some of the best barbecue in the valley in my opinion, but in a way Bryan’s can’t be compared to other local barbecue restaurants.  Why not?  Here are some reasons why.

1. It is not a typical sit down restaurant where you wait for a person to take your order and they bring your food out to you.  At Bryan’s, you get in line and look at the menu up on the wall first to decide what you’ll be having.  After you place your order up front it’s time to find a seat and wait until they call your name.  Oh and don’t forget to fill up on some of his Southern-style barbecue sauce just right of the counter.

Bryan Dooley

2. The menu is smaller than other places. The owner, Bryan Dooley, tells me he wanted to focus on offering fewer items that tasted great.  His goal wasn’t to please everyone by offering everything other barbecue spots offer, but instead to deliver the food he knew well in the best way possible.  I was really impressed by this notion and if I were to open my own place I would probably do the same.

3. The whole ambiance of the place gives a vibe of a hangout with good food rather than a destination for dinner… (a hangout with really good food that is).  The staff is very friendly and came to check on tables every now and then to see how they were doing.  People who finished eating didn’t pay a bill and get up to leave, but instead would sit at the table for another 20 or 30 minutes and just chat while enjoying the beautiful weather.  Since Bryan’s is located up in Cave Creek, the surroundings are also pretty quiet in the evenings so there was no road or city noise and it made the patio a prime spot to chill.

Brisket

As for the food, everything my table ordered was delicious.  Bryan’s was voted Best Brisket by the New Times for 2010, so of course I had to make sure someone in our party ordered the brisket.  I also heard that their baked beans were a must-try, so I had to remember to include that as well.  Walking up to the menu I immediately had my eye on the 1/2 slab of Pork Ribs however.  There was no way I was going to finish a 1/2 slab, brisket sandwich and baked beans though, so I looked over at Jeff and he was already ordering the brisket sandwich for himself.   Jackpot! Knowing I could steal some of his, I decided to go with the Pork Ribs which came with two sides so I opted for the baked beans and potato salad.  My other friends Becky and Michelle both went with the brisket sandwich as well, but changed up their sides to include fries and coleslaw.

Smoker

The brisket came out first and Becky wasted no time diving in. All 3 said that their sandwich was one of the better briskets they’ve ever had.  I tried some and I would have to agree with them.  The brisket was so tender that when you bit into the sandwich you couldn’t even tell there was meat because you didn’t have to chew through a large piece.  But the flavor accompanied with the barbecue sauce was great and I later found out this was no coincidence, as Bryan told me it was specifically made that way to complement the meat.  Each brisket also came out with a roasted jalapeno in case you wanted to add a little spice to the meal.

My ribs came out and man, did they look good.  Smoked for 14 hours with nothing but a dry rub, these ribs were tasty.  I wouldn’t say they were “fall of the bone” but they certainly weren’t tough.  The half slab had a layer of that barbecue sauce on top and two pieces of white bread underneath, to mop up whatever fell off in the basket.  The dry rub was what really came through in the taste though.  There was a slight peppery layer to the meat that would come off on your fingers a bit and made for good seasoning when licking them afterwards.  The baked beans were also as good as promised and had a nice flavor to them.  They weren’t too filling though as is the case with some recipes.

Apples

After feeling completely satisfied with our meals and sitting back in our chairs a little, Bryan came out to check on us.  We thought we were done for the evening, but then I remembered seeing a picture of root beer battered apple slices from Bryan’s Twitter account a few weeks back, and I asked if they had that on the menu.  Turned out it was the first night they were being offered, so of course we had to try them.  Out came a basket with about 8 apple slices battered in root beer, sprinkled with powdered sugar and pink peppercorns, all served around a cup of vanilla ice cream.  Yum.  Very creative and very good.  We wound up folding the apple slices with ice cream in the middle like an ice cream sandwich and popping them like nothing.  If you go to Bryan’s this month, make sure to try these.

Looking back at that night, there wasn’t one thing our table didn’t like.  With the small menu every item is almost a safe bet, but I still wish you good luck in trying to choose just one.

Tip: They have a wide selection of beer behind the counter, but the Dogfish 60 minute IPA goes great with the pork ribs and a spicy barbecue sauce.

http://www.bryansbarbecue.com/

6130 E. Cave Creek Rd.
Cave Creek, AZ