In more cosmopolitan metropolises it isn’t uncommon to see sidewalk vendors plying their trade over chuck wagon stands and proffering high quality fast food such as hot dogs, tacos, gyros and sundry quick meal items. Some of the best food in cities such as Portland, Oregon can be found near city parks where enterprising street vendors concoct culinary magic on portable kitchens and what we typically deride as “roach coaches.”
Roque Garcia has made such a business an art form–a very successful one. In fact, Roque claims carnitas paid for his home outside Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and for the Mercedes Benz automobiles he likes to drive. Roque’s cart is stationed on the southeast corner of the Santa Fe plaza where the irresistibly smoky aroma of sizzling, marinated beef draws repeat customers and tourists like a siren’s call.
Despite posting a sign explaining what carnitas are, Roque is unfailingly patient with tourists who don’t necessarily know what it is they’re ordering; they only know they can’t resist the intoxicating aromas wafting from the strange cart.
During the past decade or so, national publications including the New York Times, Gourmet Magazine, National Geographic, Roadfood and others have waxed poetic about Roque’s Carnitas Stand which operates daily from Easter to Thanksgiving, weather permitting.
Roque keeps track of the publications in which his famous stand has been featured–132 as of May, 2006. Were it not for a scheduling conflict, he would also have been featured in a Food Network program in 2006.
Roque makes the most of his cart’s “advertising space” by listing several of the publications in which his stand has been featured. The cart also points out that Roque’s Carnitas are available for weddings, meetings, divorces and other events in which people gather to eat.
When you’ve got an outstanding product, you don’t need great menu variety and in carnitas, Roque has a fabulous product!
Roque’s version of carnitas are hand-sliced thin strips of prime beef steak marinated in sauce then grilled on an open fire together with onion and chile verde and served on flour tortillas (from the Albuquerque Tortilla Company) topped with homemade salsa.
Chicken carnitas are also available and are nearly as wonderful with their beef counterparts. Both are best eaten while standing and leaning slightly forward so as not to have the succulent juices splash all over your clothing. Napkins certainly come in handy.
Other menu items include pork and green chile tamales as well as excitingly refreshing jamaica (hibiscus) and lemonade drinks.
The word “institution” is bandied about too frequently, but in Roque’s Carnitas, Santa Fe has an institution for which we can all be grateful.
Santa Fe Plaza
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 18 May 2009
# OF VISITS: 7
BEST BET:Beef Carnitas, Chicken Carnitas