12 November, 2019, 23:56

Tucson’s coolest new taco restaurant is inside a converted pink school bus

This isn't like eating tacos on the Sun Tran.

Looking for a specific taco stand in Tucson can be tricky; they effortlessly blend into the neighborhood and sometimes a small A-frame is the only visible signage when driving by.

For Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos, abbreviated to Carnitas Los Gordos, all you need to say is “look for the pink bus on 22nd west of Swan.” While the bus is surrounded by car dealerships, the lot is sparse and empty; the bus still stands out like a sore thumb.

The Bus

You’ll see pink awnings with tables and chairs, but step into the bus and open the door behind the driver’s seat. The bus seats are gone.

Instead, you’ll find a sleek industrial interior with stainless steel counter tables and chairs facing the windows. The salsa bar and refrigerator of beverages sits next to the entrance, while the order counter and kitchen reside at the back of the bus.

And most importantly for this time of year, you’ll find shade and ventilation, at least 20 degrees cooler than the 100+ degree weather outside. This isn’t like eating tacos on the Sun Tran.

Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos interior

Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos interior (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“My sister wanted [the bus] pink to look like Porky Pig,” said Alex Quezada, who runs the business with his sisters Jackie Aguilar and Gisela Aguilar and brother-in-law Victor Mejia. “People drive by and take pictures without even knowing what it is.”

The Food

For the unfamiliar, carnitas is a pork dish from the Mexican state of Michoacán. Pork is slowly simmered in its own fat, crisped before serving, and shredded into irresistibly porky bits. Put it on a fresh handmade corn tortilla, drizzle on some Michoacán-style chili oil and a spritz of lime, and oooooo weeeee you’ve got yourself a taste of pork heaven.

Carnitas at Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos

Carnitas at Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Quezada was born in Michoacán and learned to make traditional carnitas from his father when he was eight years old. Later in life, he worked as a construction worker in Panorama City, California, then moved to Tucson with his family in 2003. He worked on auto body parts, then eventually started Carnitas Los Gordos about a month ago with no prior restaurant experience.

While carnitas is the specialty, the menu also includes mixto, carne asada, and birria as meat options. You can order the meats as tacos, burritos, plates, and quesadillas. Carnitas is available by the half-pound. Breakfast is also available with huevos rancheros and chorizo breakfast burritos.

Alex Quezada chopping carne asada at Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos

Alex Quezada chopping carne asada at Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tacos are $2 – $2.25, burritos and plates with rice and beans are $7.50, quesadillas are $5 – $6.50.

Operating hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday – Saturday.

Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos is located at 4545 E. 22nd St. Keep up with Carnitas Estilo Michoacán Los Gordos on Instagram.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.

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