Seven Reasons L.A. Doesn’t Need Chipotle’s Carnitas

L.A. is a slow-cooked porcine paradise with these tacos
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There was a collective gasp this month when it was announced that Chipotle would be dropping carnitas in about 1,700 of its restaurants due to pork-supply problems. Representatives from Chipotle assured New Yorkers and Angelenos that the shortage wouldn’t affect them. Well, go right ahead, New York, and stuff it—full of that pulled pork parading as carnitas, because here in L.A. we have an array of Mexican confit-style, slow-cooked pork simmering in a cazo (large pot) full of lard prepared by regional Mexican masters.

Once you’ve had the pure unadulterated pork sensation of carnitas tacos at one of our many specialists, you might never again suffer the indignity of sitting in front of a burrito bowl again.

Carnitas El Momo

Photograph by Bill Esparza
Photograph by Bill Esparza

Photograph by Bill Esparza

The undisputed champion of carnitas in Los Angeles is 53-year veteran Romulo “El Momo” Acosta, trained at the mecca of Michoacan-style carnitas in Quiroga, perfected in his hometown of Guanajuato before arriving in Boyle Heights with his family. The selection of cuts is limited, but each bite is loaded with sweet, sticky pork so delicious you might forgo the formality of adding cilantro, onions, and salsa. Check Facebook for times and locations.

Carnitas Estado de Mexico
Anywhere else in the U.S., this State of Mexico carnitas practitioner might be an institution. But in the fiercely competitive L.A. carnitas trade, the exotic cuts like snout, liver, and tongue found here are just good. Get a pound to go and be sure not to miss the freshly fried chicharrones—yes, you can put ’em in your taco. Weekends around the 200 block of Slauson Avenue, in the “Pollo Loco” corridor south of the abandoned railroad tracks.

carnitas_puerquitos2

Photograph by Bill Esparza

Los Tres Puerquitos

Located in a discreet parking lot in the South Figueroa Corridor, this carnitas truck displays some of the finest cooking in town when it comes to pork fried in its own fat. Be sure to get the pig ears, cooked in the same caramel-colored carnitas found in Michoacan and the surrounding states. Corner of Wadsworth and Vernon Avenues, South Figueroa Corridor, 323-369-3111, Wednesday through Sunday (morning and afternoon).

Mercado Olympic
The state of Michoacan, where carnitas are king, is one of the dominant regions represented at Mercado Olympic, where you’ll usually find a pair of solid carnitas vendors serving liver, tongue, kidneys, shoulder, tongue, snout, and skin. Olympic Boulevard and Central Avenue, Downtown, weekends only.

Metro Balderas
Before there was El Momo and Los Güichos, this Mexico City-style chain was the place to go on weekends for such delicacies as nana, or pig uterus carnitas. Mexico’s capitol favors the pure flavor of pork over the sweeter Michoacan method, and the quality at Metro Balderas makes it still one of the top destinations for carnitas tacos in L.A.. 5305 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, 323-478-8383; 8507 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, 818-349-8655; 8520 Van Nuys Blvd, Panorama City, 818-891-6545.

Tacos Carnitas Don Cuco
The San Fernando Valley is no slouch when it comes to Mexican cuisine and happens to have a large population of Michoacanos such as San Fernando’s popular carnitas truck, which is your best bet for late-night pork cravings. 12898 Foothill Blvd., San Fernando.

Tacos Los Güichos 
The best D.F.-style carnitas in Los Angeles are found at this pair of food trucks parked on Slauson where they prepare a range of offal and muscle cuts from head to tail favored by chilangos (people from Mexico City). If you stick around long enough, the dueling trompos come out for world-class al pastor and a blockbuster pork double feature. Avalon Boulevard and Slauson Avenue and S. Olive Street and Slauson Avenue, Florence.

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