Carnitas are still the unsung hero of L.A.’s grand Taco Life, typically relegated to the second or third-string position at any given taquería where asada, al pastor, and birria take top-billing.
Most Mexican restaurants that serve carnitas, but don’t necessarily specialize in them, tend to roast a piece of pork butt (a shoulder cut), then shred that meat, sear it on a flat-top grill, lay it on a tortilla with salsas, and call it a day.
Carnitas, at least according to the Michoacán-style, where the dish became popular, is when pork, lard, and salt are cooked, low-and-slow, in a cazo (a specialized cooking vessel just for carnitas), creating tender, caramelized pork that only time can achieve.
These are a handful of the best carnitas players in Los Angeles to get you started on your blissfully porky journey.
ZAMORA BROS (BOYLE HEIGHTS)
Snuggled between a laundromat and dental office, you will find Zamora Bros., which has some of the meatiest and most perfectly gelatinous chicharrones we have ever tasted, hands down.
The family-owned business has a piece of chicharrón for everyone’s taste buds: Do you seek a piece that’s less meat and all crunch? They have it. Do you prefer pieces that bear the perfect amount of fat on them? You guessed it, they have that, too.
Zamora’s pieces of salty pork belly are perfectly combined with a guacamole salsa, which adds some freshness to the hefty cut of chicharrón. For some spice, we recommend any of their salsas.
CANITAS EL ARTISTA (INGLEWOOD)
For true Michoacán-style carnitas, there are few options in the entirety of Los Angeles on par with Carnitas El Artista. Inglewood is fortunate to have this champion of confit pork, serving a family recipe for carnitas that is four generations old, stewed in traditional hefty copper pots for impeccable quality, and served with love and pride. Order pounds of these glistening hunks of juicy pork meat, with tortillas and salsa to complete your taco feast. Or simply order the carnitas by the taco and eat them on the spot.
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