Snack Shack by the big bayEat This!, Latest Issue Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
I am not a patient person; I eschew waiting in lines. Much like Veruca Salt of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fame, when I want something, I want it now. Therein lies the dilemma. A long line of people waiting at a local restaurant tells me the food must be pretty good. I love good food but I hate to wait, so what’s a guy to do?
Of course I am talking about Carnitas’ Snack Shack, the hugely popular North Park eatery. I have often wanted to savor their goods, but have been dissuaded by the ever-present queue. My solution? Visit their new downtown location.
A cold wind blew across the bay. The Embarcadero, usually crowded with tourists and locals on a warm summer day, was largely devoid of people. Recent renovations have reinvented and revitalized the public space. Carnitas’ Snack Shack is located in a gleaming new building of multi-colored glass, steel and chrome. True to the original business model, there is a walk-up window for placing orders and ample outdoor seating. The greatest departure from the model however, is the addition of a full-service bar. Standing across the white quartz countertop, Chris the manager, explained “People don’t always want something to eat, but they always want something to drink.”
The Shack is known for promoting and incorporating fresh local-sourced ingredients and products. They offer a judicious well-curated selection of craft beers, wine and craft cocktails. I sipped an Alpine Duet India Pale Ale ($8) while perusing the menu. The light bodied amber pour greets the nose with tropical fruits, caresses the palate with tangy grapefruit and finishes with a kiss of cedar. A crisp satisfying quaff.
My foray began with the Beet Terrine ($8); thin sliced roasted beets, mild goat cheese and fresh spinach artfully layered beneath a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette reduction. As delicious as it is beautiful. The terrine is served with frisée and sliced radishes tossed in a slightly sweet lemon vinaigrette. Complimentary, delicate and well-balanced.
While I was tempted by the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich (pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork and bacon together with pepperoncini relish), I opted instead for the Snack Shack BLT ($8.50). Two thick slices of crunchy grilled brioche bread cradle strips of crisp smokey bacon, a slice of grilled tender ham, lettuce, tomato and creamy garlic aioli. A homemade bread and butter pickle spear rests on the side. Delectable. You have to ask for it, but a little bacon ketchup really pumps up the flavor.
Not entirely sated, I ordered a Fish Taco ($5 for one, or $9 for two). A good-sized portion of succulent grilled blackened Wahoo is nestled beneath shredded dressed cabbage, pico de gallo and a smatter of velvety avocado crema, served in a warm tortilla. Classic San Diego fare elevated to new heights.
Aimee, my super friendly and attentive server, informed me Happy Hour had begun which meant craft cocktails were two dollars off. Unable to refuse a deal, I ordered the Lucha con Feugo ($10). Blanco tequila is blended with ancho reyes (a liqueur made with ancho chiles), Curaçao (made from dried Lahara citrus peels), coconut milk and lime juice, shaken and served over rocks with a sprig of mint. Yummy. Think piña colada with a little heat.
With food this good it’s no wonder there’s always a line. Carnitas’ Snack Shack is also available for special events, catering and fundraising efforts. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.
Carnitas’ Snack Shack – Embarcadero
1004 North Harbor Drive
Open daily – hours vary
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