10 Best Places To Eat Carnitas in Los Angeles
In many parts of Mexico, the pig is king. From fried skin to chopped ears to ground chorizo, puerco is the carne of choice for millions of Mexicans every day. And, as our southerly sister nation goes, so too do the culinary interests of Los Angeles.
We are a city that loves its carnitas, the long-simmering pork preparation that renders fat and boils huge chunks of pig to create tender, juicy bites that fall apart with flavor. And while many readers may only regard carnitas as the thick, pulled-apart bites from a simmered pork butt, it is really just a specific preparation of pig. You know, like how BBQ is both a specific food and a technique.
Everything from the snout to the ribs to all of that inside stuff can be tossed together (usually inside a large metal pot known as a cazo) and simmered for hours in lard. Once the desired internal temperature is reached, the already boiling pot is heated further, frying porky edges and crisping skin in the process.
So where can you find the best carnitas in Los Angeles? After weeks of taste testing, re-testing, taking home samples and scouring the city (tough job, isn't it?), here are our picks for the ten best carnitas spots around.
10. Rambo's Taco Truck:
There's a lot to love about this colorful late night truck that parks on Eagle Rock Boulevard. If the hand-painted John Rambo mural painted on one side of the lonchero isn't enough to make you pull over, the wafting smell of grilled meats should do it. Rambo's does a brisk asada business most nights, but there's something undeniably satisfying about their carnitas tacos as well. The $1 units aren't very robust, but you can soothe yourself with a full plate for under $5. The pork is water-boiled before being seasoned and fried, but the mellow saltiness works well with the freshly chopped onions and kick of salsa roja. These are great carnitas introduction tacos, pulled apart and loaded up with toppings to provide porky newcomers with a taste of what's to come. Eagle Rock Blvd., south of York Blvd., Eagle Rock.
9. Carnitas El Tio:
Compton isn't exactly synonymous with great carnitas preparations, but Carnitas El Tio on Long Beach Blvd. is a rare exception. The folks in the long, triangular building have been laying down plates of pork for years, and have gained a strong local following as a result. The carnitas here comes in thick bands, barely fried at the edges and oozing with juices. Instead of some pressed taco concoction, Carnitas El Tio offers full, chopped bites that could use a bit more salt but otherwise warm the belly. Order up a few street-sized tacos and watch your plate emerge from the back, brimming with freshly prepared pork that's been stacked haphazardly onto a few griddled corn tortillas. 1903 N. Long Beach Blvd., Compton.
8. Las Fuentes:
Open since 1982, Las Fuentes is a popular Reseda lunch spot that tends to push out warm plates of wet enchiladas and bulging burritos. But their carnitas comes brimming with flavor, be it inside a burrito, layered into a taco or as a standalone plate with a side of rice and beans. The slightly smoky meat is sturdy enough to stand up on its own, with hefty chops that carry the soft texture of a long simmer back in the kitchen. Since Las Fuentes is a "something for everyone" sort of place, you won't find any tasty off-cuts of carnitas, such as ears or skin, but the trusty pork butt here hasn't been strung out or made to lie down. Instead, Las Fuentes provides some of the most serviceable carnitas you'll find in the San Fernando Valley. 18415 Vanowen St., Reseda.
Eagle Rock Blvd. south of York, Eagle Rock, CA