Friday, January 27, 2023

Bridgeworthy: Northgate Market, Carnitas for Dinner

Pork shoulder slow-cooked in a mixture of lard, Mexican Coca-Cola, orange juice, onions, and spices. Shredded and griddled to order, the small pieces of meat are crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. I am talking about Carnitas (pork confit), the Mexican version of pulled pork.

As much as I love carnitas, I only sometimes have the time or desire to make this at home. Not to worry, Northgate Market in Barrio Logan just over the bridge (OTB) has my back; every inch of this store is packed with high-quality groceries, prepared foods, fresh meats, baked goods, and a produce section that staggers the imagination. Let’s make some tacos.

Carnitas taco thanks to Northgate Market.

The smells hit you immediately as you enter Northgate; fresh tortillas, steamy tamales, and the aroma of roasting meats. I am here to shop for carnitas, I need to be more focused.

Ceviche bar at Northgate Market.

A stop at the deli reveals a ceviche bar and a host of salsas. Shrimp ceviche catches my eye, so I grab a pint and a bag of fresh chips for lunch.

The salsa section takes some thought as all eight different salsas look amazing. I choose a salsa Fresca and a Pico de Gallo for our carnitas tacos. The guacamole seems tempting, but my daughter likes to make her special guac from scratch, so I pass. 

Cooked carnitas ready for service.

The next stop is “Comida Casera” the homemade food section, for the cooked Carnitas.  The hot case is brimming with pork and other cooked meats. I decided on two pounds of carnitas because I wanted leftovers. The packaged carnitas felt warm in my hands, and I could smell the pork. Next, we needed tortillas.

As I continued to make my way down the counter, I noticed a chicharrones display with large three to four-foot fried puffy pig skins, not something you see every day.

Chicharrones display, whole skins, at Northgate Market.

There was an even bigger display of tostadas. The selection surprised me; who knew tostadas were in such high demand?

Tostada display at Northgate Market.

I continued past the homemade tamales to the Tortilleria, where tortillas come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. I pick up a bag of corn tortillas from the press, warm to the touch. Northgate also carries fresh masa.

Tortilleria at Northgate Market. Tortillas made fresh daily.

I grab a wheel of queso fresco and some Crema Mexicana on my way to find cilantro and radishes. These tacos are coming together. 

The butcher shop at Northgate Market.

The trip to the produce section took me past the large and impressive “Carniceria,” a beautifully maintained and well-staffed meat counter stocked with marinated and ready-to-cook meats. Looking at all the beautifully displayed meats made me want to head home and fire the grill up. I need to focus on these tacos.

Cactus both chopped and whole, produce department Northgate Market.

When you reach the produce department, you are aware of its abundance. Stacks of avocados and fresh chiles. Lage bins of dried chiles and a vast array of spices. Diced and whole cactus nopal and bundles of fresh herbs like mint, thyme, and oregano.

The bakery at Northgate Market.

I grab radishes, cabbage, and cilantro for the tacos; avocados, and limes for the guacamole. It is hard not to notice the Panaderia on the far end of the department past the eye-catching and expansive citrus display. The cakes, bread, and pastries all look amazing, but for another time.

The citrus display at Northgate Market.

I then had everything needed, all the fixings for carnitas tacos. Beans and rice, I almost forgot, back to where I started, to pick up a quart of each. That completes the mission at hand. Tonight, all I have to do is warm the tortillas and reheat the carnitas. I shredded the carnitas and then fried them with bacon grease in an iron skillet. I laid out a selection of crumbled queso fresco, roughly chopped cilantro, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, and the two salsas. My daughter made her guacamole and we commenced assembling and eating tacos. The meal was exceptional for the price and ease of getting it on the table. These carnitas were not fast food, but good food served in a fast fashion.

Northgate excels in every category; it’s clean, smells of comfort food, everything is available in abundance, and the crew members are friendly. They have multiple cashiers, so the check-out lines move fast. 

Whether stocking up for a barbecue, grabbing a meal, or just doing general shopping, Northgate Market has you covered. Barrio Logan is a convenient Northgate location, just on the other side of the bridge from Coronado, but National City has an even larger store. Put some tacos on your menu, and head to Northgate. 

Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde is a trained chef that has worked in hospitality for nearly 40 years. In addition to cooking, he is a freelance food writer and storyteller. Clyde is a third-generation Coronado local, CHS graduate, and father of three. He owns and operates Olive Avenue Supper Club, a boutique catering company specializing in culinary experiences. You can follow his culinary journey on Instagram @oliveavenuesupper.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]