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Carnitas in the East Bay?

10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 10:25 AM

I’ve had good carnitas at Dona Tomas and at Cancun in Berkeley. I’ve heard good things about Oteaz in Alameda.

I know some of the taco trucks are known for their carnitas but I’m really looking for more of a sit down place.

Any other suggestions?

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  1. f
    foodeye RE: 10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 10:56 AM

    There are two places called Taqueria Zamorano, one on 14th at High and one on Foothill near 38th, owned by brothers from Zamoro, Michoacan, which have excellent carnitas.

    1. Ruth Lafler RE: 10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 11:16 AM

      I haven't had much luck with the other food there, but considering how good the carnitas is at their truck, the carnitas at Guadalajara might be worth trying. I'm also adding links for the Zamorano restaurants:

      Guadalajara Restaurant
      1001 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 94601

      Tacos Zamorano taco truck
      4800 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

      El Taco Zamorano Restaurant
      4032 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        10foot5 RE: Ruth Lafler Jan 8, 2008 11:25 AM

        Thanks, foodeye and Ruth.

        I had a very enjoyable meal at Guadalajara after a gig one Friday night recently. We had set off for La Pinata, our usual late night Alameda margarita and mole hangout, but when that proved to be line-out-the-door crowded took a passer-by's suggestion and went to the near by Guadalajara. Better food, better atmosphere, and loads of open tables.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler
          Ruth Lafler RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 26, 2008 08:16 PM

          Ah, this is the wrong link. The Tacos Zamorano link is to the taco truck. The taqueria at High and International is Taqueria Zamorano.

          Taqueria Zamorano - CLOSED
          4345 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            10foot5 RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 27, 2008 09:07 AM

            Thanks Ruth,

            It was the taqueria I went to, not the truck.

        2. k
          kc72 RE: 10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 12:07 PM

          I like the carnitas at La Bamba -- right off the San Pablo Ave. exit in Richmond.

          La Bamba
          12345 San Pablo Ave, Richmond, CA 94805

          2 Replies
          1. re: kc72
            wolfe RE: kc72 Jan 8, 2008 04:04 PM

            Best to order ahead as the preparation is leisurely at la Bamba.

            1. re: wolfe
              kc72 RE: wolfe Jan 8, 2008 04:57 PM

              i agree 100% w/ that.. never thought it'd take long to make a quesadilla or a couple of tacos.

              I tried their pupusas recently and that's my new item for now, those are a bit tough to order ahead though.

          2. DezzerSF RE: 10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 12:13 PM

            My coworker likes the carnitas at Taqueria San Jose, not sure if you're looking for a greasy lard-y version though. It is a sit down place and there's a good salsa bar.

            1. l
              lmarie RE: 10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 02:00 PM

              I had a delicious carnitas torta at Casa Latina on San Pablo in Berkeley recently.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lmarie
                lmnopm RE: lmarie Jan 8, 2008 04:42 PM

                Were they nicely crisped? The couple of times I've had things w/carnitas there, it was more like pulled/shredded pork w/out the extra umph that makes carnitas really good (like a few minutes on the grill)

                1. re: lmnopm
                  rworange RE: lmnopm Jan 8, 2008 11:23 PM

                  Also no lard is used for the carnitas.

                  1. re: lmnopm
                    Problem Child RE: lmnopm Jan 9, 2008 11:03 AM

                    My favorite is Axtlan Taqueria in Oakland. Good crisp. Best to order as a plate rather than in a burrito or taco.

                2. hohokam RE: 10foot5 Jan 8, 2008 06:14 PM

                  I've had good carnitas at La Plazuela in San Pablo. The version they served me consisted of egg-sized nuggets of fried pork--crusty on the outside, moist and succulent on the inside. The place can be kind of noisy, especially if the bar adjoining the dining room is full.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hohokam
                    hohokam RE: hohokam Jan 8, 2008 06:15 PM

                    Hmm...place link didn't take that time. Here 'tis...

                    La Plazuela
                    2022 23rd St, San Pablo, CA 94806

                    1. re: hohokam
                      rworange RE: hohokam Jan 8, 2008 11:25 PM

                      I am so glad hohokam keeps mentioning La Plazuela because it is perhaps one of the most over-looked terrific restaurants in the Bay Area. Do keep in mind it is not a ... ah .. hem ... haw ... let's say there's a pool table in there ... and it is serious Mexican worker territory.

                      1. re: rworange
                        hohokam RE: rworange Jan 9, 2008 05:40 AM

                        Heh. Maybe we should just say it's probably not a place to take the kiddies on a Friday night. School nights can be relatively peaceful, depending on who's in charge of the volume control for the TVs and the jukebox. ;-)

                  2. s
                    SLRossi RE: 10foot5 Jan 9, 2008 07:51 AM

                    Not sure how far East you want, but I like the carnitas at Los Dos Gallos in Concord. They remind me of the carnitas at Zamorano.

                    Taqueria Los Dos Gallos
                    1950 Grant St, Concord, CA 94520

                    1. Eat_Nopal RE: 10foot5 Jan 9, 2008 08:37 AM

                      I really have yet to find really good Carnitas anywhere in Northern California... even in L.A. they were just a handful of places that do it right... so I am wondering if any local Hound that has actually been to Uruapan, Zamora or Quiroga has found a place that is somewhat comparable & would vouch for.

                      1. 1
                        10foot5 RE: 10foot5 Mar 26, 2008 11:30 AM

                        I’m trying to work through all these suggestions but my better judgment only allows me to have carnitas once a month or so. Here are my thoughts so far (I tried the carnitas plate at each location):

                        La Plazuela ($12) – I like the half-bar/half-restaurant atmosphere, very casual. The carnitas here are fairly unique to my experience. I’m guessing they cut the pork into golf ball-sized chunks and then deep fry the chunks. This resulted in a lot of crispy surface area but the meat was unfortunately dry and not terribly flavorful. Probably worth trying again but I’m almost never in the neighborhood.

                        Tacos Zamorano ($11) 4800 International location – The winner so far. Huge portion of juicy meat with a nice mix of fat and crispy bits. This is exactly what I was hoping for. (I got this to go and the portion was so large that they serve it in a catering-style silver foil tray. No snap-n-go plastic container here.)

                        Axtlan Taqueria ($6.60!) – Wow. A bargain and someplace I can easily walk to at lunch- time. This is dangerous. Not quite the epiphany that Zamorano was, but still large serving of perfectly respectable meat. The limes were juiceless and the rice had an off flavor but I’d go back in a heartbeat (perhaps the wrong phrase).

                        Still to try:

                        Casa Latina
                        La Bamba

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: 10foot5
                          rcspott RE: 10foot5 Mar 26, 2008 04:45 PM

                          Please put Jalisco Cafe in Oakland on your list. They only serve them on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If your daring ask for the "mixed plate". It comes with Pork, Pork skin that taste like butter, and pieces of yummy tripe. Get yourself a can of Tecate with salt and lime on the top of the can and make yourself little Carnitas tacos with the wonderful green sauce on the table. Plenty of marinated jalapenos, carrots and onion on the table too. I was in the back building/kitchen (20 years ago) where the pork cuts were simmered in a huge copper kettle propped up on bricks. The pork was cooked with tripe, chiles, oranges, possible annato seed, and other seasonings. As the liquid evaporates the rendered lard is left and the pork browns. I ate there last month and it was as good as ever.

                          Jalisco Cafe
                          1721 International Blvd
                          Oakland, CA 94606


                          1. re: rcspott
                            foodeye RE: rcspott Mar 26, 2008 05:45 PM

                            Theirs is a very different style of carnitas. When I worked in the area, I always ordered it "carne solo" since I was not daring and did not want the tripe, etc. It was "the other white meat" with a bit of a gamey flavor from being cooked together with all the offal parts...but more like pork loin than pulled pork. And yes, their green salsa is really delicious.

                            1. re: rcspott
                              mason1800 RE: rcspott Oct 9, 2008 03:23 AM

                              Yes, these are truelly the traditional style of Carnitas. Not just loin. I mean cueritos, buches, the ribs along with the green salsa. Man Im hungry.

                              1. re: rcspott
                                shanghaikid RE: rcspott Jul 13, 2010 12:55 PM

                                the carnitas here is delish. was about $7/lb. last i went. price varies with their cost of fresh pork.

                              2. re: 10foot5
                                Ruth Lafler RE: 10foot5 Mar 26, 2008 05:26 PM

                                If you're getting it to go, you can try the prepared foods counter at the Mi Pueblo Food Center. They always have a big pile of carnitas -- I bet you can point to the pieces you want. I think it's about $5.99/pound.

                                1. re: 10foot5
                                  twocents RE: 10foot5 Mar 26, 2008 07:25 PM

                                  Eugene Park makes at least two recommendations for the Zamorano restaurant (as opposed to the taco truck). Let us know if you try it.


                                  1. re: twocents
                                    Ruth Lafler RE: twocents Mar 26, 2008 08:09 PM

                                    I think since 10foot5 specified that he was looking for sit-down places that the Tacos Zamorano he visited was the restaurant at High and International, which is actually Taqueria Zamorano. There's also a Tacos Zamorano taco truck at that location, and another sit down place, El Taco Zamorano on Foothill. It's very confusing, I know! Eugene said he tasted the carnitas from the International and Foothill places side-by-side and preferred the former.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                      10foot5 RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 27, 2008 09:18 AM

                                      Oddly enough, although the links on this thread pointed to the taco trucks, it was Taqueria Zamorano that I went to. Don't know how I stumbled onto that - I must have followed links to other CH threads.

                                      In any event, it was Taqueria Zamorano (4345 E 14th St) that I was reviewing. Sorry for the confusion.

                                      Can one get a carnitas plate a the taco trucks? Or are they taco/burrito/torta only? Does the same kitchen prepare the carnitas for the restaurants and the taco trucks?

                                      1. re: 10foot5
                                        Ruth Lafler RE: 10foot5 Mar 27, 2008 09:37 AM

                                        I've seen carnitas plates at a few trucks, but most of them only do tacos/burritos, etc. Where the food is prepared is a good question -- I've often wondered.

                                        Last night I edited the places links to make them clearer and added one for Taqueria Zamorano -- it's important to know where to find those delicious carnitas!

                                    2. re: twocents
                                      Eugene Park RE: twocents Jul 13, 2010 12:47 PM

                                      Just went by EL Taco Zamorano Taqueria at the corner of International Blvd and High St. Security gates are locked up all around it, lights weren't on and the phone number is no longer a working number. I did notice someone was sitting by the window when they turned their head to look out. There was a notice posted in the window about their beer/wine license being suspended by the ABC, but that had been in the window when I ate there last month.

                                      I am crushed, to say the least. My wife, who was with me and normally abhors fatty foods, even admitted their carnitas are too good to resist.

                                      I expect they'll reopen, and I can only hope the new operators will offer the carnitas.

                                      1. re: Eugene Park
                                        SLRossi RE: Eugene Park Jul 14, 2010 10:28 AM


                                  2. Mission RE: 10foot5 Aug 2, 2010 11:23 AM

                                    I just had a Carnitas Torta yesterday at La Calaca Loca in Oakland near Bettie's Bakesale.

                                    It was the best Torta I have ever had.

                                    It was huge like a half pound hamburger,fresh and hot off the grill.

                                    I used to think El Ojo de Agua Tortas were the best... but La Calaca Loca blows them away.

                                    Not that cheap @ $6.50 and it does take a while for them to make one.

                                    But I would take one of these over Bettie's Chicken sandwich any day.

                                    La Calaca Loca
                                    5199 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Mission
                                      escargot3 RE: Mission Aug 2, 2010 04:35 PM

                                      Thanks for this post. I haven't been there in a while, and am glad to hear they've got the goods.

                                      1. re: escargot3
                                        Mission RE: escargot3 Aug 2, 2010 05:45 PM

                                        Hi Escargot3,

                                        I had not been there recently either.(two years) and I only live a half mile away.
                                        I had just ordered burritos before...good but nothing to write home about.

                                        But now after yesterdays Carnitas Torta, I think I will become a once a week regular.

                                        Does anyone know if they always have Carnitas or is it just a weekend thing?

                                        One thing I might add is that the Torta is not overly stuffed with meat.

                                        But the balance of meat with everything else is perfect !

                                    2. c
                                      chemchef RE: 10foot5 Aug 2, 2010 04:32 PM

                                      Don't know how I missed this post, but my husband and I regularly go back for the carnitas at Dona Tomas. They are TO DIE FOR! And, they will make them extra crispy for you if you want. OMG, so good. Take it from somone who just made carnitas yesterday, these are well worth it!

                                      Dona Tomas
                                      5004 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609

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