The Shack of My Dreams- Carnitas Snack Shack, San Diego

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Is 3 trips to the same restaurant during a paltry 1 week holiday too much? Is that too narrow minded in focus, robbing you of precious opportunities to sample more of what the local dining scene has to offer?

If you answered yes, then clearly you’ve never been to the Carnitas Snack Shack, in beautiful San Diego.

Before our trip to Southern California, I put out a request to SD locals to tell me where to eat in their fine city. The folks on YELP came through big-time with more great suggestions that we could possibly sample. When a few of them checked out my blog to get an idea what I’d like, the Carnitas Snack Shack became the overwhelming recommendation.

I’ll tell you what….. that recommendation could not have been more spot on.

True to it’s “Shack” moniker, the building itself is pretty underwhelming, and would be easy to miss if not for the giant iron pig that adorns the roof. If you were just driving by, you could easily miss the epic  swine-tastic delights being created inside.

We had heard that the lineups could be long at peak times, and our first visit at 7pm Sunday evening confirmed that. We about 45 minutes before we go to the order window, then waited another 40 minutes to get our food. Although there is no indoor seating, there is a beautiful outdoor seating space out back. As you might have guessed, the menu is heavily pork-centric, which is A.O.K. with me.

On our first visit, my wife Robyn went for the BLT. I have to admit that when she ordered the BLT I thought “Really? A BLT? Did you see all the other great sounding stuff on the menu?” Though, one stolen bite later I was converted.

A couple things make this much more than your standard BLT for me; the addition of crispy ham (I guess it’s actually a BLTH?), and a delicious a concoction called Shack Aioli. According to Robyn, it’s the best BLT, and one of the best sandwiches overall that she’s ever had. That’s a pretty good introduction to the Shack.

Shack BLT

Shack BLT

I of course couldn’t decide on what to order since I literally wanted to try everything. I settled on a Pork Belly App, with sweet and spicy glaze and a frizee salad. I rarely meet a pork belly I don’t like, and this one didn’t disappoint. I loved the crispy crust and the sweet glaze on the side was a perfect topper.

Pork Belly App

Pork Belly App

I also ordered the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich. Over 3 visits, this was the one thing that we found underwhelming. Since we took that first meal to go and ate it in the hotel room, I think it suffered  from the extra 20 minutes in the take-out container. Piled high with bacon, pulled pork, and pork loin schnitzel, topped with pepperoncini/pickle relish, and shack aioli, it sounds like a pork lovers dream come true.

Triple Threat

Triple Threat

The thing that threw off the sandwich for me was the schnitzel. If it had been crispy it would have changed the texture of the sandwich (which was what I didn’t like), and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much more. I wish we had thought about that at the time and ate it at the restaurant, because it probably was crispy when first served. Based on that amazing BLT alone, we knew another visit to the Snack Shack was going to be in the cards before heading home.

Our second visit to the Shack was late Wednesday afternoon after a day of relaxing on the beach in La Jolla. We had asked while waiting for our food on the Sunday when the best time to come would be to avoid line-ups, and mid afternoon sounded like the most likely bet. Sure enough, we arrived around 3pm to find we had the order window to ourselves. Score!

Our favourite bench at the beach in La Jolla

Hamming it up at the beach in La Jolla

We ordered the special of the day; a Pork Burger with candied bacon, gorgonzola, mixed greens, and shack aioli and we paired it with an order of seasoned french fries.

The french fries were darn good in their own right and the homemade bacon ketchup (yeah…bacon ketchup) was stupendous, but in all honesty one whiff and subsequent bite of that Pork Burger and the fries were all but forgotten.

Fries and Bacon Ketchup!

Fries and Bacon Ketchup!

Simply put, this was the best burger either of us has ever had. Seriously, I couldn’t help licking the screen 3 times while writing this thanks to the picture. The pork was super juicy, the bacon was crunchy and sweet, the gorgonzola was mild and oh so creamy, and they grilled the brioche bun to give it perfectly crispy edges.

I have no idea how you could make a burger better than this.

Carnitas Snack Shack Pork Burger with candied bacon, gorgonzola, and greens

Carnitas Snack Shack Pork Burger with candied bacon, gorgonzola, and greens

Most people would have stopped while they’re ahead, but as we were sitting in the courtyard waiting for our food, we watched as a lot of other delicious looking food was being delivered to other lucky guests.

Hence a third visit on Friday.

This time I was determined to try the Steak Sandwich I had seen brush past me like a sultry vixen the last 2 visits. Just the sight of this sandwich causes me to drool uncontrollably and moan inappropriately. This baby has sliced ribeye, pickled serranos, tomatoes, chipotle aioli, and pepper jack on a jalapeno cheddar bread.

Sliced ribeye steak sandwich- The best sandwich I've ever eaten

Sliced ribeye steak sandwich- The best sandwich I’ve ever eaten

I loved every single thing about this sandwich. The spicy kick, the tender beef, the bread, and the juiciness of the sandwich is just unparalleled. Without a doubt, this is the single best hot sandwich I’ve ever had. I’m thinking about getting a medic alert bracelet and instead of medical info, I’m listing The Ribeye Sandwich at the Snack Shack as my critical medication. For real, look at the picture and tell me you could resist.

Robyn decided that since the Pork Burger was so fantastic, she’d try the Shack Burger from the regular menu.

Different burger, similar result.

This one had bacon jam, white cheddar, butter lettuce, and that delicious shack aioli. This is starting to be a running theme, but this would also make our list of best burgers. Possibly even #2, right after the pork burger.

Shack Burger with bacon jam and white cheddar

Shack Burger with bacon jam and white cheddar

Despite all that meat, Robyn still wanted chocolate. I wouldn’t have thought that a place specializing in pork products would have had any desserts (let alone anything good), but when Robyn saw Chocolate Pot de Creme on the menu, she had to try it. Rich and creamy, with a nice crunch from the bacon brittle on top, even I had to admit this was pretty darn good… and I’m not a dessert guy.

Chocolate Pot De Creme with Bacon Brittle

Chocolate Pot De Creme with Bacon Brittle

We typically suss out the best comfort food a city has to offer whenever we go on a holiday, but I have to say that for me the Carnitas Snack Shack has jumped straight to the top of my list. Almost 2 weeks later I’m still completely obsessed with 4 different items from their menu. You can’t get a better recommendation than that…except to say that it was simply balls-out awesome (having your balls out at the Shack is frowned upon).

P.S. Be sure to check out the Carnitas Snack Shack website for much more professional pictures than mine to make your mouth water.

Carnitas' Snack Shack on Urbanspoon


  1. says

    Wow! That s certainly one awesome looking food, we will defiantly have to check this place out next time we are in San Diego. It may even be worth a day trip from LA!

  2. says

    My husband and I were just in San Diego doing an art show and stayed with my sister in law for a week. We went to Carnita’s twice in that week stay. It was so good! Can’t wait to go back again! We are planning on moving out there just to eat at Carnita’s 🙂

  3. says

    Oh God Im Hungry now!
    My family lives out in San Diego so my wife and I have taken the kids quite a few times now, but I can’t believe nobody has ever told me about Carnitas Snack shack! My wife insists on visiting the Old Town Market! lol I feel obligated to eat here, and walk out feeling a real man haha Thanks for the tip!

  4. says

    Man, this place was made for you! Everything looks great.. especially the sultry vixen – pepper jack is an underrated cheese!

  5. Moises Vences Jr says

    I’m extremely fortunate to live less than a mile away from this fine establisent. At this point I’ve had all of those burgers you’ve tried and I couldn’t have described them any better myself. And when people ask for recommendations on where to eat Carnitas Snack Shack is always on the top of my list.