HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >


Carnitas Snack Shack Wait Time Sunday at noon

We're coming down on Sunday from the OC. Starting at the zoo at 9am then heading up to Del Mar. We'd like to grab lunch and wanted to see if the lines would be long on Sunday around noon?

We have 2 little ones (4 and 2 year old) so not interested in waiting on line with all our travels. The other options we're looking at in the area are Pizzeria Bruno and Pizzeria Luigi. I've been to Luigi a bunch of times and it would hit the spot. Not as good as Vito's in LA but still a good NY slice. Anybody have other good suggestions near the Zoo?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, if you get there right at noon when they open, their won't be much of a wait.

    But on the weekends, the wait generally varies from 30-45 minutes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks we'll try to go there right when it opens. We're anticipating a decent amount of Del Mar traffic. We realized Comic Con was this weekend so we're going to give it a go this weekend.

      Pizza is an easy choice with the kids but Hillcrest looks good.

    2. You can always call ahead and order to go! Love the food but have never once eaten at the shack (of course I only live a mile away)

      There are a million great places near the zoo - ie: Hillcrest! Want a great fish taco? Try Mama Testa's (won Bobby Flay's throwdown) - I think they are over priced but you're on vacation and its a nice causal place for kiddos.

      Heard good things about Bruno's but never actually been .. Born in NY so don't really eat pizza in Cali. Stick with the Mexican food ;-)

      1. Great Maple is a good breakfast/lunch place for kids. It's loud so it drowns out any misbehavior :) And the food is good. You can make a res on Opentable too so no waiting.
        (parent of a toddler, so I get it)
        If you're thinking Luigi's, Alchemy nearby is also good-- not as good as it used to be, but generally solid and you can actually sit down and chill. They love kids there. Bueno Forchetta too, but I can't remember if they have lunch on the weekends or not. Station Tavern is the classic kids spot in South Park (with play area) but they only have burgers, really. Good beer though.
        Make sure you leave plenty of time for Del Mar traffic, ugh.

        1 Reply
        1. re: strideam

          Make sure you leave plenty of time for Del Mar traffic, ugh.

          Or just downtown traffic in/around Balboa (and the zoo).

          Apparently, there's some sort of convention in town this weekend, I hear. Something about comics ...

        2. Generally, you're better off showing up around ten or fifteen minutes before they open to keep the wait down (to ten or fifteen minutes). The food is awesome, but I'm not sure that CSS would appeal to kids - the portions are too big. That said, the seating will work for kids.

          1. We went today for lunch (Monday). We arrived at 11:50 and there were exactly 12 people ahead of us in line. We ordered at 12:15 and received our first plates around 12:20. Since they have a very small menu it didn't take long for the dishes to come out. It also looked like they have 8 or so people in that kitchen which has to be a fire hazard. We left at 12:40 and the line was 15 people. If anybody finds a San Diego Zoo commemorative penny book please let me know. My 2 year old daughter lost it and we have no idea where it went.

            There is much more outdoor seating than you think when you first walk up. We liked the outdoor seating area.

            The food was excellent. The carnitas tacos for $7.50 was a steal considering how much meat was in each taco. I felt like this was more pulled pork than taco but splitting hairs. Moist, delicious and porky without being greasy. The guacamole and salsa were a perfect pairing.

            My wife loved the beet terrine with goat cheese, radish and frisee. She said it was the best beet salad/appetizer she has ever had. She literally orders a beet dish at almost every restaurant menu we see beets and we've been to a lot of restaurants so take it for what its worth. A nicely composed salad that had a good portion of goat cheese in every bite. Beets alone were delicious.

            The burger was a tad over cooked but had great flavors. Not too fussy with a great char on the outside. Still juicy and easy to eat. We enjoyed the cheddar and bacon jam. I didn't notice the aioli for better or worse.

            As others have mentioned the fries were just ok. With all the effort they make with their own ketchup and all the other great cooked meat I was kinda expecting some excellent thick cut double cooked fries in duck fat but this is just a shack.

            1 Reply
            1. re: js76wisco

              Great review, js76.

              Too bad about losing that special penny.

            2. This thread prompted me to make a weekday visit while I had some time. We sat in the back and were swarmed with flies during our meal. I saw numerous tables of people trying to swat them away also. Is this the norm now or did I catch it on a off day?

              My BLT was delicious but having hundreds of flies landing on our table, meal, beer, etc was extremely disgusting. Not sure what is causing it because I didn't smell garbage. Maybe they used inappropriate fertilizer for those garden boxes?

              13 Replies
              1. re: MrKrispy

                Had the same fly issue there last week. It's not usual. Tho there are always more flies this time of year in San Diego. Looking for water. CSS needs to set up fans, or borrow those Venus fly trap flowers from the botanical garden in Balboa Park, or something. I was seriously afraid I would eat flies along with a bite of food-- they were that bad.

                1. re: nessy

                  I make it a point to eat in my car, can't stand those nasty, filthy flies.

                  1. re: cstr

                    I just take it up the street to Caffe Calabria.

                    The oolong tea is a nice counterbalance to the richness of the food at Carnitas Snack Shack.

                    1. re: cstr

                      I've never not had bad flies buzzing around me there.

                      1. re: kriot

                        'Never not' means you've had bad flies buzzing around you. Right!

                        1. re: kriot

                          While I've not been to CSS lately, I have the same problem at home...

                          1. re: Fake Name

                            It does seem like a banner years for flies, actually. They were bothering me at Papa Lunas on Sunday, and there were a couple at BaLe yesterday, where I've never before seen a fly, even though they almost always leave the door open.

                            1. re: DoctorChow

                              I haven't had an issue with flies at numerous taco shops around town while I am eating my burrito (using the proper wide-legged stance too).

                              I looked on another popular food website and at least half of the reviews mention the flies. Last time we had eaten there we were by the back kitchen door and didn't have an issue with the flies. Maybe it is just the tables along the planters at the other side.

                      2. re: nessy

                        Just wondering if the black flies are that bad, why doesn't the owner use a natural citronella oil to repel the flies and make sure that the trash is taken out daily, locked, away from the dining area.

                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          Ever smelled citronella?

                          Rather have the flies.

                          1. re: Fake Name

                            We have the citronella candles by the pool/grill and I don't notice a smell. .smells a little lemony but maybe that's because my neighbor has a Meyer lemon orchard.

                            Can you use the oil without the torch and set it in little pods around the property?

                            Aloha Fakey

                          2. re: Beach Chick

                            Just remember that just because citronella may work on one kind of insect in one region, it's not universally effective on all insects.

                            It sure as **** doesn't work at all on Belizian mosquitos ... might as well have slathered up in BBQ sauce for all the good that did...

                            1. re: The Office Goat

                              I was just going to mention its ineffectiveness against the Belizian mosquito...

                      3. The heck with the flies. .
                        I would freak the f*ck out if I had a home next to CSS, with people standing in line, all day and night.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          But you'd know exactly the best time to go there...

                          1. re: DoctorChow

                            true that

                            anybody find my daughter's San Diego zoo penny book by any chance?

                        2. Was 2nd in line today at around 11:50am.

                          The carnitas were amazing today. Great flavor, juicy and lovely crispy bits intermingled in the tacos. Two tacos for $7.50 is a fantastic lunch. Tons of meat and the guacamole is excellent.

                          My only gripe which my wife pointed out as well is the salsa and hot sauce situation. I saw somebody else mention this but for a place that has such excellent meat it's a shame they don't make their own salsa or hot sauce. They have a selection of around 7 or so hot sauce and all of them just aren't the right fit for the tacos. Maybe they'll get around to it but this would make the tacos and other sandwiches that much better/

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: js76wisco

                            Here's one kind of hot sauce that would work well with their pork:


                            But what a concept: Carolina-style carnitas tacos, whatever that is...in San Diego!

                            P.S. The comments on the link make for interesting reading.

                            1. re: DoctorChow

                              I can't believe that guy knowingly added ketchup to a Carolina vinegar sauce, probably got banned from all of the places in eastern NC. I've never even been there and I know it's heresy!

                              I am curious why more places around here aren't offering the SC-style mustard sauces as a counterpoint to our salsa-trained palates, I love that stuff with pulled pork.

                              1. re: MrKrispy

                                One of the commenters on the meatwave link pretty much said the same thing about someone adding ketchup to a Carolina hot sauce in the eastern part of the state. Yes, heresy! But as others said, it's not uncommon in the western part.