Happy “Taco Tuesday,” mi gente! Can you say “carnitas?” I just know you can! If you want some of the very best outside of Mexico, then head on over to Carnitas Uruapan in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Located directly across the street from
the 18th St. ‘L’ stop along the CTA Pink Line, Carnitas Uruapan is celebrating 40 Years in business this year. The last time I blogged about a family owned restaurant in Chicago celebrating such a milestone was my post about Cafe El Tapatio. Congratulations!
The Carbajal family is focused exclusively on serving up the kind of carnitas street food from their hometown of Uruapan, Mexico. I haven’t been to another place that can match these carnitas. Allow me to break it down for you.
The aroma: Whenever you arrive at the 18th Street ‘L’ stop, you are bathed in the delicious aromas of the many restaurants and bakeries in this historic Mexican enclave. However, the inviting and distinct scent emanating from Carnitas Uruapan is the hardest to resist. I dare you! From the minute you step inside this tiny retail/dine-in spot, you are transported to Mexico. The smell of the pork here is to me what the sirens were to Odysseus. Basically, I am too weak to fight it off 😉
The juicy factor: For those of you who might not know, carnitas are chunks of pulled pork which are slow-cooked for approximately two hours . While so many joints overcook them, the Carbajal family has this down perfectly.
Whether you order the pork loin alone or mix it up with some pork belly, tongue, stomach or brain, you can rest assured that the meat is the juiciest around. Additional condiments, such as salsa, hot sauce and guacamole are not needed at all. However, since the good folks here take such pride in offering you the very best sides, do check those items out. I always enjoy a little extra hot sauce on just about everything 🙂
The flavor: Que bueno! Que rico! So many layers of flavor here. Smoky, peppery, earthy. Slightly tangy. The BEST.
Here’s how my lunch went down. While you can certainly walk in and order carnitas by the taco ($2.50), I chose to go with their Value Meal for $6.50 which is great if you think you might have more than two tacos. It comes with 1/2 pound of carnitas (you choose the cuts of meat you prefer). Today, I went with just the pork loin. Also included are a side of chicharrones (fried pork skins) and any can or bottled soft drink you like. I love tamarind soda with meals like this, so that is how I rolled.
Also part of this experience are tubs of house made salsa, hot sauce, hot peppers, chopped onions, cilantro, wedges of lime and piping hot corn tortillas. For $3 more, I ordered some guacamole to round things off.
When all was said and done, I spent just $10.82 on lunch today. The bonus was that I took home some leftover carnitas and chicharrones to sprinkle into a dinner salad tonight. Who wouldn’t love to replace some boring croutons with some super crunchy chicharrones?!!
One last thing. Carnitas Uruapan is crazy busy on Saturday and Sunday. So get there early. There are lines outside the door for dining in and take-out. Tripe stew, another favorite, is available on weekends, as well.
If you don’t get your butts over there, then I will just assume you are not interested in trying the best carnitas in Chicago. That would be a shame.
Carnitas Uruapan is located at 1725 W. 18th St. They are open week days from 9am-5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 7am-6pm. Closed on Thursday. Click here for more information.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Pink Line to Carnitas Uruapan. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!
Looking for another great taco destination in Pilsen (albeit not carnitas-specific)? Check out Del Toro.