If you’re driving between the Bay Area and Monterey on US 101, try and do it during lunchtime. That way you’ll have a chance to order a carnitas burrito and a tamarindo jarrito (soda) at El Coyote Mexican Grill, less than 5 minutes off the Hellyer Ave. exit south of San Jose. Here’s Google Earth (click for a larger version). And directions.
Could it be that this place takes its name from the slang for one of those shady men who smuggle immigrants over the Rio Grande and into the land of opportunity? Because the carnitas at this place are steeped in sun-baked Mexican tradition. The giant flour tortilla has been grilled crispy, not steamed. The beans have been cooked down to a pearly brown syrup. Pale crescents of real avocado peek out in place of the usual thin green “guacamole.”
And then there’s the carnitas themselves. Cut into moist, dice-sized chunks and roasted, not stewed, until the grain comes out and the whole cube lists to the side under its own tenderness. Finally, finished with the slightest caramelization on the grill to coax out the most delightful pig-ness of the meat. Four dollars and fifty cents. I had half of mine for lunch; the other half for dinner.
Don’t ask me how I found it. I had wandered off the highway looking for gas. I saw the restaurant crouched next to a laundromat in the thin shade of an old strip mall. Somehow, I just knew.
Interesting side note: I picked up a free Spanish-language newspaper. Thick with ads, maybe 36 pages, tabloid size, it had one page each dedicated to news from most of the countries south of the border, down at least as far as Venezuela. Ads were all over the map, from sexy (well, sorta cheesy actually) nightclubs to real estate ads. Million dollar real estate ads. The country is changing, folks. I just pray they bring their carnitas with them.