Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Marvelous, Dangerous Porkyland

I try to get around. It sure seems I'm out a lot eating here, there, everywhere. But I do miss spots. And, until yesterday, I'd somehow missed Porkyland in Hillcrest. But it's a favorite of my friend Jon Bailey and I figured it would be only right to have lunch with him there when we were organizing a get together.

The Hillcrest Porkyland is next door to Biff's in the little strip mall on University at 6th. It's a cute little place with its black tables and chairs, scribblings in Spanish in white paint against a black background, and a banquette with colorful throw pillows. It's just fun.

Porkyland may be new to me, but it's been around since 1982 so it's got a reputation. The new owners Deborah and Pepe Stepensky have held the mantle for just three years but they knew the original owners, even helping them out when the Barrio Logan site had fire damage. Deborah Stepensky helped the next set of owners with accounting and when they decided to sell, the Stepenskys took it on, along with their restaurants in Seaport Village.

But, of course, we're there for the food, not a history lesson. And, in particular, we're there for the carnitas.You can get them in various forms: tacos, which I had, mini tacos, burritos, sopes, tostadas, and chimichangas.

You can see that the preparation is simple. A warm corn tortilla, a heaping serving of rich and tender carnitas, and a sprinkling of cilantro and chopped white onion. Go to the salsa bar for a selection of sauces.

Jon and I really indulged, toying with the carne asada sope and the nopal quesadilla. I had to try the chicharron taco and it blew me away. Tender and a little crunchy, the texture and flavors from this fatty indulgence are worth getting yelled at by a cardiologist. I also really liked his chips and the thick, sweet guacamole they're served with.

Pepe, who is a friend of Jon, happened to be there and insisted we try the buche. Now buche is pork stomach -- not for everyone. But I was game and Jon reluctantly joined in. I have to say it was delicious. It's an unusual flavor and texture. I suppose if you were to come up with a flavor for offal, this would be it. Verging on the coarse. I would compare eating traditional cuts of meat and offal like pig stomach to the difference in flavor between eating a mild brie and a ripe camembert. It's very tasty but it takes a true love of strong flavors to go for the latter.

Pepe then wanted us to try his wife's flan. You can order it at the restaurant or buy it to go -- along with a wide range of other housemade specialties -- including tortillas, several types of salsas, and rice pudding. The flan was a gorgeous circle of sweetness, drenched in a lovely syrupy caramel.

It's denser than most I've had in the past -- almost to the texture of cheesecake. But still soft and creamy. It was simply the perfect end to a decadent meal. Everything tasted fresh, and was wonderfully seasoned.

Porkyland is open daily in Hillcrest and their La Jolla location for breakfast, too, with buritos, chilaquiles, and huevos Rancheros or whatever other style of egg you like. And, they have a big catering business.

Porkyland is located at 646 University Ave. in San Diego and 1030 Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla.

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