Saturday, April 20, 2024

Carnitas Michoacan (Los Angeles, CA)

The Original Carnitas Michoacán Restaurant
1901 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031
323-225-2729 /
Sat 04/20/2024, 10:35p-12:45a

Carnitas Michoacan Exterior

I recently had a craving for nachos (fittingly for 4/20), and decided to venture out to Lincoln Heights' Carnitas Michoacan to satisfy that hunger. The spot was ostensibly founded back in 1977, and ended up spawning numerous outposts throughout Southern California over the years. Now I'd known for a while that there were multiple Carnitas Michoacan locations in the region, but was surprised by just how many I found (I'm sure that I'm missing some):
  • Carnitas Michoacan #3: 741 S Soto St, Los Angeles, CA 90023 (Boyle Heights) – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 19043 Parthenia St, Northridge, CA 91324 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 7666 Woodman Ave, Panorama City, CA 91402 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 14534 Brand Blvd, San Fernando, CA 91340 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 7206 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91605 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 12911 Victory Blvd, Valley Glen, CA 91606 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan No. 4: 13923 Van Nuys Blvd, Arleta, CA 91331 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan #7: 2816 E Slauson Ave, Huntington Park, CA 90255 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 26972 Rainbow Glen Dr, Santa Clarita, CA 91351 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan El Original: 11220 Laurel Canyon Blvd, San Fernando, CA 91340 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan 4: 1605 S Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 90006 (Pico-Union) – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 5856 Imperial Hwy, South Gate, CA 90280 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan 8/La Fonda de Carnitas Michoacan: 7939 Imperial Hwy, Downey, CA 90242 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan #9: 301 W Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90802 – Closed
  • R. Carnitas Michoacanas: 15039 Roscoe Blvd, Panorama City, CA 91402 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 8729 Sunland Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 9849 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Chatsworth, CA 91311 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacanas: 6200 Eastern Ave, Bell Gardens, CA 90201 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacanas: 13189 Gladstone Ave, Sylmar, CA 91342 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacanas: 18507 Victory Blvd, Reseda, CA 91335 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 10112 State St, Lynwood, CA 90262 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacanas: 14064 Vanowen St, Valley Glen, CA 91405 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 15347 Roscoe Blvd, Panorama City, CA 91402 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 8556 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324 – Closed
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 331 9th St, San Bernardino, CA 92410 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 1039 Ming Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93307 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan #1: 1136 N Mt Vernon Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92411 – Open
  • Carnitas Michoacan: 625 S Riverside Ave, Rialto, CA 92376 – Open
From what I understand, the first several restaurants were indeed associated with the original, but over the years, ownership passed to various parties, and these days, they're largely unaffiliated. I have to assume that the locations that opened up later were either trying to capitalize on the popularity of the mini-chain, or simply named Carnitas Michoacan because the Mexican state of Michoacán is largely considered the birthplace of carnitas. If anyone has more to add as to the true story behind this place, please do chime in.

Carnitas Michoacan Dining Room
Pictured above is Carnitas Michoacan's dining area, which is about what you'd expect.

Carnitas Michoacan Menu: Drinks, Breakfast Carnitas Michoacan Menu: Combinations, Sides Carnitas Michoacan Menu: Tacos, Burritos, Etc
Here we see the menu, which includes your classic Mexican(-American) fare, as well as some more intriguing dishes (I was particularly interested in the tortitas de camaron, but the kitchen had run out). Breakfast items are also offered, but apparently they're only available from 5:00am to 10:00am. Click for larger versions.

Nachos Especial – Carnitas
Nachos Especial – Carnitas [$10.88]
We'll start with the dish that I specifically came for, loaded up with the restaurant's namesake carnitas. The pork was as soft and salty as I was hoping for, with some nice charred bits, though it could've been juicier. And curiously, I actually tasted flashes of ròusōng in there. Otherwise, the nacho cheese was done in that trashy style, and the chips were on point, while I also appreciated the contrast provided by the peppers and pickles. However, I really wanted some onions and cilantro in there to brighten things up.

Sope – Buche
Sope – Buche [$10.08]
This largely unrecognizable sope was certainly the bulkiest I've ever encountered, and featured chewy, deeply savory cuts of pork stomach. The dish's thick, hearty, masa-forward base was as expected, and I liked the counterpoint offered up by all the veggies. This one opened up nicely with a splash of salsa roja.

2014 Stone Enjoy By 04.20.14 IPA
To drink, I brought along a bottle that I'd been cellaring for the last decade with the intent of popping it open on this very date: the 2014 Stone Enjoy By 04.20.14 IPA, which I'd purchased at Ramirez Beverage Center in Boyle Heights back in March '14 (when the place first opened). The beer was designed to be consumed fresh, and had an "expiration date" of exactly 10 years ago, so my extended aging was performed in the name of experimentation. The nose on this one was unexpectedly bright, juicy, and hoppy, but with a distinct caramel-like backing. Tasting it, I found the ale surprisingly piney and bitter still, though the hop character was joined by a palpably sweet, malty underpinning. This actually held up much better than I'd anticipated, and was undoubtedly drinking better than the similarly 10-year-old Pliny and Heady I opened recently at La Casita Mexicana.

Flautas Combo
Flautas Combo [$8.88]
Being a bit of a sucker for taquitos, this was a must-try. I'm actually not sure what kind of meat was used here, but whatever it was, it worked, as did the crunch of those rolled tortillas. The veggies and green sauce certainly made sense as well, and I didn't mind the dish with a dash of the smoky salsa below, either. The rice also delivered thanks to its "fluffiness," and those cheesy beans met the mark, too.

Salsa Roja
I was provided several containers of salsa roja, which showed off this smoky sweetness and creeping heat.

Tostada – Cabeza
Tostada – Cabeza [$10.08]
I generally shy away from ordering tostadas, since they tend to be difficult to eat on account of the tortilla always breaking apart. Here, there was no pretense of trying to consume this cleanly, and the dish was treated as essentially a taco salad of sorts. In any case, the tortilla tonight was as crunchy and shattery as I was hoping for, and boasted a touch of sweetness to boot. It served as a great textural element, while the actual beef head ate tender and gelatinous, and came loaded with those savory, dark-toned flavors I was seeking. The beans added a nice weight to the dish, and of course the lettuce and cheese worked, while the green salsa helped tie everything together.

2014 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
Next to imbibe was another bottle celebrating its 10th birthday, the 2014 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout, which I'd actually purchased upon release at the Whole Foods in El Segundo. The beer smelled of dark, almost cherried fruits and vanilla--quite appealing. On the palate, I got smoke, oak, bourbon-fueled heat, and fragrant vanilla, leading to a decidedly malty, long-lingering finish. This has aged quite beautifully I have to say, and in fact, was drinking better than most fresh examples of BCBS I've had in recent years.

Taco – Pollo
Taco – Pollo [$2.28]
Chicken was the choice for my first taco. The bird arrived well-seasoned, with an agreeably sour spice, but was on the drier side. The classic duet of cilantro and onion were as expected, but a pour of that smoky salsa is what completed the equation.

Quesadilla Especial - Tripa
Quesadilla Especial - Tripa [$11.28]
Tripas showcased those deep, salty, savory, almost funky flavors I was looking for, while texturally, I loved those crispy bits going on. The potency of the protein was well-juxtaposed against all that cheese, and I liked how the sear on the intestine linked up with the smoke of the salsa.

Taco - Lengua
Taco - Lengua [$3.38]
Tongue came out properly tender, with some nice seared parts for good measure, while taste-wise, there was this almost sophisticated beefiness that really sang with the onion/cilantro. And interestingly, the meat seemed to draw out the sweetness of the salsa roja.

2023 Horus Dose-ified Tier Zero
For the evening's final beer, I went with something much more youthful: the 2023 Horus Dose-ified Tier Zero, an imperial stout aged in Balcones corn whiskey barrels, then Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, then finished in Templeton rye whiskey barrels, with the addition of chocolate, Geisha coffee, hazelnuts, and Mayotte vanilla beans. The bouquet here was super inviting, and recalled vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone, but with an undercurrent of boozy dark fruits. The brew was silky smooth and viscous on the palate, with more of those vanilla cone notes joined by bourbon-fueled heat, stewed berries, and tons of sweet, long-lasting hazelnut on the finish. A superb pastry stout.

Burrito – Al-Pastor
Burrito – Al-Pastor (Inside View)
Burrito – Al-Pastor [$9.08]
Al pastor made for a fitting filling for my burrito thanks to the pork's warm, sweet spicing. You can't go too wrong with this.

Papa Nachos – Asada
Papa Nachos – Asada [$12.88]
Closing out the night was a hefty (over two pounds) serving of carne asada fries. I appreciated the use of crinkle-cut papas here, which made for more textural interest. As for the beef, I found it a bit chewy in spots, and I could've used more smoke and char, though the meat worked well enough for its purpose here. Of course, the nacho cheese tied things together, but again, this would've been improved with the addition of cilantro and cebolla.

Despite Carnitas Michoacan having been around for over 40 years, this was my first visit to the longstanding spot, and I have to conclude that the restaurant mostly delivered with its straightforward, casual, comforting Mexican fare. I can see why the place is considered a late-night staple for the Southland, and in fact, I'd probably come here on the regular if I lived around the area.


Blogger Daniel Sacilotto said...

Isn't this a carnitas place? Why didn't you order the carnitas?

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger H.Peter said...

My first thought when I saw the list of locations and image of the inside, Los Pollos Hermanos. And I am NOT under any 4/20 influence......

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Daniel: But I did--I had carnitas on my nachos.

H. Peter: Haha, I could definitely see that due to the rectangular yellow sign.

Thursday, June 20, 2024 6:01:00 AM  

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