La Fachada20 25th St.Logan Heights619-236-8566
You know your food is good when someone asks to have it for their last meal. No one was dying or anything, but my friend was going on a diet, which is kind of like death, at least for me. The afternoon before her D-day, I asked what she wanted to eat. Her answer was swift and succinct: carnitas. I empathized with the fervency in her voice because that'd probably be my final request, too.
She had carnitas on the brain because we'd been hitting up this taco truck near our office for lunch, and while I was always testing something new, she'd ordered the carnitas, without fail, every time. I suppose that's why I'm single and fickle, and she's had a 30-year marriage.
La Fachada is a brightly painted restaurant on the corner of 25th Street, about a five-minute drive east of Petco Park and across from the Imperial Avenue police station, serving a Mexican menu and potatoes-and-eggs all-day breakfasts. Its taco truck is permanently parked in the restaurant's lot, with tarp-covered seating and a tidy lineup of salsas and other taco garnishes. I've peeked inside the restaurant, but its dark, cavernous interior can't compete with sitting outside on a bright, cloudless day.
I can read a menu in Spanish, but that's about the extent of it—so, thankfully, the ladies at the cash register were patient as we stumbled through our orders. It's here that my friend discovered the mulita, her now-preferred vehicle for carnitas consumption—meat, a little melted cheese, cilantro and chopped onion sandwiched between two corn tortillas. Both sides are griddled a bit, making it part taco, part quesadilla, but maybe a little better than both. The carnitas also get heated on the griddle, making them crispier.
An extra beauty is that every corn tortilla is made to order by a lady in the truck who presses rounds from a soft heap of fresh masa. This tortilla is not a machine-stamped, rubbery, store-bought thing, but an essential taste component to every dish, adding nutty, toasted corn flavor. I've been here enough times now to notice some variations—the corn tortillas are sometimes a little paler (and they occasionally substitute orange cheese for white). I prefer the lighter cheese and a more well-done tortilla.
The salsas, one red tomato and one green tomatillo, are also homemade, possibly by the apron-wearing grandma who often sits near the small outdoor grill, on which different vegetables roast, depending on the time of day.
The tacos filled with lengua and cabeza are my picks, and carne asada is also good, though if I want something with a more meaty texture, I'd probably first go for the juicy al pastor, chile-marinated pork sliced off a rotating vertical spit. I had the pork most recently in a gordita, a twice-cooked thick corn tortilla that's first griddled and then fried until the center puffs and forms a hollow. The bread is split and then stuffed with meat and cheese and topped with shredded lettuce, crema and gratings of a salty, aged cheese that tastes like a hard feta. Most gorditas I've tried are heavy and doughy, but this version is airy, the fried tortilla shell almost melting on the tongue. I always order the fresh cantaloupe agua fresca because its musky melon flavor goes so nicely with the earthy richness of the meats.
My friend's meals now come mostly from our nearby supermarket's salad bar, and though I do want her to succeed with her new regimen, I'm pretty certain that one day in the not-too-distant future, she'll look over at me and say, “Carnitas?”