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Best Carnitas?

t
tastytasty Aug 6, 2007 07:46 PM

My SO's birthday is rapidly approaching, and want to take him to dinner for his favorite dish - carnitas (particularly crispy versions). Anyone have any recommendations for a good restaurant, particularly in the Westside area? Thanks!

  1. b
    Bruin2 Aug 8, 2007 08:20 PM

    I know that it's a bit irritating when you ask for a restaurant recommendation and someone tells you to cook it yourself, but I have to say that having tasted carnitas all over the city, at most of the above restaurants, my personal favorite carnitas are the ones you buy at Costco. They're tasty, and most important not too fat and greasy which is a real problem with Carnitas. So, after you take out your SO, grab some at Costco the next time you're there, and see which you prefer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bruin2
      t
      Tony S Nov 10, 2007 04:47 PM

      The truly BEST carnitas in so. cal (and I am shooting myself for posting this) are in Orange, at the corner of Tustin Ave and Palmyra - Carnitas del los Reyes!!

      There is a reason why this taco stand has been there for 20 years and is packed daily.

    2. t
      tastytasty Aug 8, 2007 06:11 PM

      Thanks for all the recommendations. Totally forgot about Frida's - went there last Christmas for a party and had a good time and remember the drinks and food were good. Think I'll give Lare's a go, as we have never been there. And a big thanks to JBC for the informative and investigative reporting!!!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: tastytasty
        j
        Jesdamala Aug 8, 2007 06:16 PM

        I am not going to say Lares has the best food in LA, and even the best carnitas..although I think they are very good indeed. I wish they had the cloth napkins, pre fire, but that is being petty. There are some things on the menu that far surpass others. The OP wanted a special occasion restaurant, and cannot think recommending a taco stand is the right idea! The OP asked for Westside. Lares has some unusual offerings on their menu that go beyond the 'typical' Westside Mexican menu. I am very happy they survived their fire and are back in action! Please be sure to check the hours of the musicians, as I do believe this has changed if this matters to you!

      2. m
        mistertoast Aug 8, 2007 05:22 PM

        I was very underwhelmed by the carnitas at Frida's - Not particularly flavorful, and it was so expensive for what it was, felt totally ripped off. Yes, it strives for atmosphere (even that was not all that great), but the food was really lacking. Even their chips were weak. I vowed never to return. I also recommend Lares - nice place for a celebration and they know how to make a plate of carnitas.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mistertoast
          j
          Jesdamala Aug 8, 2007 06:00 PM

          Lares is a very nice place for a celebration! I am sure there are fabulous carnitas all over the city, but not at sit down, drinks in hand, fun places with music and the great service they always have! They also do a special fruit tarte, or they did prior to the fire, upon request/special order, and they will always go out of their way to accommodate any requests!

        2. u
          UDHRfan Aug 7, 2007 06:01 PM

          Frida is a great restaurant but carnitas are my favorite Mexican dish and Lares has the best I've tasted on the Westside.

          1. b
            brandygirl Aug 7, 2007 05:55 PM

            For a nice dinner celebration, try Frida on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. I've been there twice and have had wonderful dinners and great service. It's a nice sit-down restaurant, not a taco stand.

            www.fridarestaurant.com

            1. Servorg Aug 7, 2007 12:30 PM

              Go to Gloria's Cafe (just barely west of Jasmine St.) on Venice Blvd. in West LA and get an order of Carne Adobada. The carnitas are marinated overnight and are swimming in the fantastic adobada sauce.

              -----
              Gloria's Cafe
              10227 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

              1. SauceSupreme Aug 6, 2007 10:43 PM

                My favorite carnitas is Las Fuentes in SFV.

                9 Replies
                1. re: SauceSupreme
                  w
                  Wolfgang Aug 7, 2007 08:54 AM

                  Tacomiendo has good carnitas. They're on Pico and Gateway.
                  Not a fancy place, though.

                  1. re: Wolfgang
                    j
                    Jesdamala Aug 7, 2007 09:18 AM

                    Lares on Pico in Santa Monica has some ambience and carnitas! Just a suggestion for a fun BDay place, not sure when the musicians are there anymore, after their sad fire.

                    1. re: Jesdamala
                      SauceSupreme Aug 7, 2007 11:21 AM

                      I quite like Lares -- it's my "sitdown Mexican on the Westside" spot.

                      1. re: Jesdamala
                        Moose Aug 7, 2007 11:23 AM

                        I second Lare's on Pico - a much better choice for a birthday dinner since its a nicer sit down place. The carnitas is easily among the best I've ever had, so I doubt your SO will be disappointed. Nice and crisp on the outside, but quite tender overall.

                    2. re: SauceSupreme
                      CarlieInLA Aug 7, 2007 11:42 AM

                      Can you tell me more about Las Fuentes? We just moved to Encino and are looking for good Mexican nearby. Any other dishes stand out? Whats the ambiance like? Thanks!

                      1. re: CarlieInLA
                        d
                        debra Aug 7, 2007 12:18 PM

                        I love Las Fuentes too. Years ago they were a hole in the wall with great food, and now they have expanded and jazzed the place with Artes de Mexico, so it's a lovely place, with great food. Back to the chow... They have quite a large menu, but I think they really excel in their grilled meats. Asada, Carnitas, Al Pastor, all flavorful. I recommend any one of those meats in a Torta (they make the best) or tacos. Enjoy!

                        1. re: debra
                          WildSwede Aug 7, 2007 12:26 PM

                          I have been going there since they opened and lived a few blocks away - sigh -I LOVE their burrito de bistek encebollado (steak and grilled onions burrito) - I ask for the meat to be prepared medium rare and they do it. I love the fact that they put slices of avocado in it. I also like their nachos which are different, but really good. I have been going since the early 80's and cannot get past that burrito. Whenever I have taken someone with me, they always like whatever they order. Although I have had the breakfasts there a few times and they were really good as well. They are in Reseda on Vanowen just east of Reseda on the left hand side. There is always a line!
                          Not a whole lot of ambience, although like debra says, lots of Artes is really nice. It is the kind of place that you stand in line, place your order, get your number. If you order drinks and/or chips, you pick those up, jostle for a table (it is best to have one of your party try to find one while you place the orders), get your salsa and wait for your number to be called. Then you pick it up and go straight to heaven!!

                          1. re: WildSwede
                            CarlieInLA Aug 7, 2007 03:49 PM

                            Thanks debra and wild! Can't wait to try it!

                        2. re: CarlieInLA
                          b
                          brandygirl Aug 7, 2007 06:01 PM

                          Las Fuentes also has some sister restaurants in the area. Just a block or two away is Melodies, on Reseda Blvd. just south of Vanowen. The menu and salsa offerings are slightly different, and it's smaller than Las Fuentes, but the quality is the same. I love their tacos, burritos, and arroz con pollo. If you want to eat healthy there, try the Salpicon Salad.

                          They also have a wonderful more upscale place, as sit-down restaurant, called Sol y Luna. It's on the north side of Ventura Blvd., and I believe it's between Corbin and Winnetka.

                      2. w
                        writergirl Aug 6, 2007 08:40 PM

                        I really love the carnitas at Taqueria Sanchez on Centinela, but as the name says, it's a taqueria. It has zero ambience, so might not be a good birthday spot. But they're really good!

                        -----
                        Taqueria Sanchez
                        4541 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: writergirl
                          n
                          nosh Aug 6, 2007 11:33 PM

                          I almost always get my Taqueria Sanchez trio -- pastor, carnitas, and shrimp tacos -- and the carnitas are consistently good. They have a good salsa bar, the place is clean and the service friendly, easy parking in the back. Their shrimp is unusual for a taqueria and is exceptional, tasty and not overcooked.

                          I've had more mixed success with the carnitas at Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica, on Olympic at 14th. Sometimes great, occasionally just tough little cubes of hard pork. Their tacos are bigger and a bit more expensive, and their salsa roja is more complex, though their bar has fewer options and tiny cups.

                          Good carnitas at El Super Tacos on Santa Monica Blvd. at Brockton, next to Monte Alban. Small tacos just a buck, with an excellent habanero salsa to mix with the salsa roja.

                          Best carnitas I've had in L.A. were in a huge taco from a stand at the Grand Central Market. I don't know for sure whether it was Roast 2 Go or Ana Maria's or another, but the carnitas were rich and tender and succulent and had crispy parts.

                          Which brings me to my final suggestion -- the pulled pork sandwich at Porky's on Manchester just west of the Forum. This pork was fantastic, with the best attributes of great carnitas. All of the tenderness, succulence, crispiness above, plus some smokiness and all around yum.

                        2. j
                          JBC Aug 6, 2007 08:22 PM

                          Since there are lots of restaurants that have carnitas (and since your buying) what would you like to have while diing with him? . . . . Ambiance? . . . . . It could narrow the field down considerably.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JBC
                            t
                            tastytasty Aug 7, 2007 11:06 AM

                            Yes - you are right. Looking more for a place that would be nice since we are celebrating his birthday. However, thanks to everyone for all your other suggestions, as we will hit those spots at other times.

                            1. re: tastytasty
                              j
                              JBC Aug 8, 2007 01:47 PM

                              I did a brief telephone poll on the cost of a plate of carnitas w/ rice & beans:

                              Frida - B.H. - $20.00
                              Border Grill - S.M. - $18.75
                              Gilbert's El Indio - S.M. - $12.10
                              Gloria's Cafe - Culver City - $11.00

                              For birthday clebratory up-scale atmosphere that serves carnitas, I (personally) would go to Frida.

                              Budget:
                              --------------------------
                              $20.00 - Carnitas
                              $18.00 - Mole Verde (a wild guess, I've never had any mole there).
                              $10.00 - App or salad to share. (the ceveiche bar is $16 - pricey).
                              $28.00 - Adult beverages ($2 beers & 2 mixed drinks).
                              ----------
                              $76.00 + T & T = $97.08 @ Frida

                              Gilbert's (same order) - Food $31 + drinks $24 = $55 + T&T = $70.25

                              Note - You can get out of either for less on the food and especially the drinks (i.e. pitcher of margaritas at Gilbert's w/ chips & salsa (free) and 2 entrees might be $34 to $40 beforeT&T).

                              If not Frida, then maybe Servorg's susgestion of Gloria's carnitas, but I have never been. The atmosphere at Gilbert's is just basic old divish cantina or nothing special at all.

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