Carnitas Don Alfredo, at the corner of Lake Street and First Avenue, is one of three local outposts of this Mexican restaurant group. Attached to a gas station, this small to-go restaurant specializes in carnitas, pork slow-cooked in its own fat. This is also the way French duck confit is prepared: simmered in fat, the meat becomes richer, more tender, lush and delicious.
At Carnitas Don Alfredo, the nice lady behind the counter asked, “Would you like the meat with or without fat and skin?” She added, wincing, “Without is less greasy.” When asked “Which one do you like,” she replied “I like it with fat and skin,” so we bought a pound of carnitas with and a pound of carnitas without fat and skin, just to compare the two. A pound of carnitas is priced very reasonably at about $10.
In the photo above, the “greasy” version is on the right, and it wasn’t very greasy at all. It was, unsurprisingly, much more flavorful than the drier, no-fat/skin version. Look at it. Does not the “greasy” version look way more delicious than the meatier (and drier) version on the left?
Carnitas Don Alfredo advertises carnitas “estilo Michoacan,” in the style of the Mexican state of Michoacan, which is where carnitas were thought to have originated (sometime after the sixteenth century invasion of the Spanish, who brought pigs to the New World). The carnitas at Don Alfredo are chopped into small pieces to make it easier to use in tacos.
We’ve enjoyed carnitas at a number of places in Mexico and in Chicago’s largely Hispanic Pilsen area, many times at the legendary Carnitas Uruapan. Never before have I been asked if I wanted carnitas with skin and fat: traditionally, carnitas just come that way. My guess is that the Carnitas Don Alfredo location on First Avenue, steps from River Forest, is maybe a little cautious about serving the version with fat and skin to gringos like me: perhaps they’ve had to deal with unhappy customers complaining that the meat is “too greasy.” So, they give customers the option. We’d highly recommend going with “greasy.”
Brad Knaub of Carnivore likes a blend of both styles of carnitas, saying, “The mix is the truth. Also, handmade tortillas. I buy for my staff anytime I’m nearby.” If you’re a little hesitant about the greasy version, you might consider getting a mix. And about the handmade tortillas, that’s definitely something you want, but currently they’re offered only Friday through Sunday (other days, they offer the still very respectable El Milagro brand tortillas).
Get either the mix or the skin and fat “greasy” version of the carnitas; both are more flavorful than just the chopped meat. With your order, you’ll be asked if you want red (chili arbol) or green (tomatillo) salsa with your carnitas. Both are made in-house, and they are fantastic: you want both.
Carnitas Don Alfredo
15 N. 1st Avenue
Maywood, IL 60153