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Roque's Carnitas

, Santa Fe, NM -
Posted By Michael Stern on April 11, 2015 11:02 AM
Roque's Carnitas is a chuck wagon that parks on the corner of San Francisco Street and the Old Santa Fe Trail on the Plaza. Roque Garcia and his partner Mona Cavalli usually pull up to this spot just before lunch time every day but Tuesday between Easter and Halloween, and sometimes continue on to Thanksgiving. Dining is stand-up informal, although in recent years a few little yellow stools have been added for people to sit and eat al fresco. The menu is minimal: tamales, a quesadilla, which is something like Mexican grilled cheese, and carnitas, which is a sandwich folded inside a large, sturdy flour tortilla that has been heated on a grate over a charcoal fire. Inside the tortilla is are shreds of char-cooked top-round beef with chilies and onions and plenty of salsa.

Marinated in soy sauce and garlic, the beef is tossed with sliced yellow onions and sliced hot green chiles over a fire at the side of Roque's cart until it is lightly charred and the onions and chilies start to soften. About a half-pound of this cooked mix is piled into the tortilla and topped with salsa made from tomatoes, onions, and chopped jalapeƱo peppers. The hefty sandwich is tightly wrapped in foil so it can be carried without serious spillage.

As soon as you peel back the foil and try to gather up the tortilla for eating, chunks of salsa tumble out; meat juice leaks; onions slither and plump circles of earth-green chile pepper pop free. "We are New Mexican, not Mexican," Mona once explained to us. "That is why we use beef rather than pork, and flour tortillas rather than corn." The beef, which spends enough time over the hot fire to absorb good smoke flavor, glistens with moisture. It is tenderly toothsome with a lush meat-and-marinade smack that could have no better accent than the taste of fresh, fleshy New Mexican peppers. The whole affair, cushioned by its big circle of warm, wheaty tortlla, is a taste experience that is fundamentally and deliciously southwestern.
5 star rating
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Posted By Joel Finkle on September 4, 2005 9:12 PM
Roque's is still the real deal. On the southeast corner of the plaza, the smell of sizzling beef is almost overwhelming.

Aside from the carnitas, we sampled chile-cheese and pork tamales $1.50), which were tasty but a little dry, and fresh lemonade ($2) which was very refreshing on a sunny day. The carnitas are not what I've known as carnitas (crisped roast pork hunks), but closer to fajitas - sliced beef (they say carnitas is just 'little meat' - and it says fajitas on their cart too). But the meat is sweet from the peppers and onions, and juice will certainly roll down your arms as you eat it.

There's another fajitas-bearing cart on the southwest corner, and they include guacamole, but the meat is not as tasty.
3 star rating
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