With New Locations in Petco Park, There’s More Ways to Love Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Written By: Mayandra Robbins
Photographed By: Josie Gonzales
Expert: Chef Hanis Cavin
Credentials: Co-Founder and Culinary Director of Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Tatted Up: Chef Hanis loves pork so much, he even has a ton of pork tattoos!
By opening Carnitas’ Snack Shack, the god of pork himself has graced San Diego with his culinary genius. Chef Hanis Cavin, a San Diego native, has always had a knack for creating spectacular dishes that everyone enjoys. With three locations spread out in the county, patrons have the opportunity to revel in the artistry of pork goodness. Chef Hanis’ desire to create the perfect pork dishes led him to find the most flawless specimens and flavors.
Q: What was the first moment that made you say, “I really want to become a chef”?
Hanis Cavin: I took home economics in high school and part of it was cooking. My teacher came to me one day and [said] that I have talent and should really pursue. Being the know-it-all high schooler that I was, I said, ‘No’ and became a construction worker. It was not for me, and it dawned on me that I wanted to be a chef so I went to the New England Culinary Institute and my life changed forever. It’s my passion, plus I love food. I was destined to be a chef.
Q: What sets your establishment apart from other restaurants?
HC: We are a fast casual dining experience. When we first started, there were little to no counter-style restaurants. Plus, I think the anticipation builds when the customer is in line. While you’re waiting, you get to smell all of the food being made in the kitchen, and the excitement just builds up while you are waiting. We also provide a comfortable environment that is like being at home, but nicer. And we’re affordable. We have the same high quality food but for eight to 10 dollars.
Q: Your love of pork is evident, but how did it all begin?
HC: It all started with a ham and cheese sandwich. For most people, bacon is their introduction into the world of pork. But for me, I had this amazing ham and cheese sandwich and it changed my life forever.
Q: How did you come up with your menu? What was your inspiration behind it?
HC: I came up with it after years of dreaming about and cooking with pork. My inspiration was that I finally had my own place where I could do whatever I wanted and was able to think outside of the box.
Q: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome when you first opened Carnitas’ Snack Shack?
HC: Well when we opened the Snack Shack, North Park was not the hip and popular neighborhood that it is today. We were certainly taking a risk opening a new type of fast-casual restaurant in a neighborhood that had heavy police activity.
Q: All the dishes at Carnitas’ Snack Shack are delicious, but what is one dish that everyone must try when they come to your restaurant?
HC: The Triple Threat! It’s a sandwich filled with pork loin schnitzel, succulent pulled pork, bacon, pepperoncini relish and some house-made shack aioli.
Q: Carnitas’ Snack Shack has become a sensation all over San Diego. What do you think makes it a fan-favorite?
HC: We have high quality food that people definitely enjoy. We have a family-friendly atmosphere and affordable prices so all people can enjoy quality food at a reasonable price.
Q: What are some upcoming projects that you are working on?
HC: Well, we just recently opened two locations within Petco Park so getting that up and running smoothly has definitely kept me busy!
Q: What restaurant do you frequent outside of your own?
HC: My go-to is Colima’s Mexican Food, but I enjoy going out and trying new places. Most recently I was very impressed with my experience at KINDRED.
Rebel With a Cause: Each month the restaurant focuses on a “Special of the Month,” which is a menu item dedicated to raising money for a specific charity like Meals on Wheels and Compassion It.
Scouts Honor: Chef Hanis taught a local Boy Scout troop how to use a La Caja China.
For the Love of Tradition: Chef Hanis Cavin loves Mexico because he was able to find traditional pork recipes that had been used for generations. He learned from the people there and appreciated the culinary art they had practiced throughout history.
Carnitas’ Snack Shack
1004 N Harbor Dr
San Diego, CA 92101