When The Minty tweeted about going to Metro Balderas to eat pig uterus, it was like a siren's song, luring us into potentially dangerous waters. We just couldn't resist.
Yes, okay, part of the point of heading to Metro Balderas is the glamour of the story. “Oh, yes, we eat pig uterus all the time, it is delightful!” But it’s a small part. We actually legitimately love the taste and texture of almost all offal. Furthermore, we had yet to have any carnitas (traditional Mexican slow-roasted/braised pork) in Los Angeles that had really wowed us – many of the basic cuts we had sampled around town were either a little dry or bland, or both. We were hoping that the use of different cuts of the pig would avoid the same result.
Metro Balderas is a relative newcomer to Highland Park, having opened less than four years ago, but the no-frills storefront fits right into the neighborhood. Based on what we saw, the tiny colorful restaurant does gangbusters with take-out orders, but there are six or seven tables available for in-house gorging.
For such a small place, Metro Balderas sports an overwhelmingly huge menu, which includes chilaquiles, gorditas, tortas, and huaraches, among other things. But we were there specifically for the snout-to-tail carnitas menu, only available on Saturday and Sunday. We didn’t spot any readily available translations, but that’s what food blogs are for, yo. Here’s our way of paying it forward (at least, this was how it was described to us by the guy working the counter):
Surtida = a little of each of the above, except the uterus
Each taco is $2.10 and the meat comes couched in two corn tortillas to guard against breakage.
Us being us, we ordered one of each, along with an almost ridiculously generous basket of tortilla chips (I think they were $1.25). We prepped the table for the impending gluttony by peppering it with each of the salsas and garnishes from the salsa bar. Chopped onion and cilantro are also available on request (note, we asked for ours on the side).
The first plate held the trompa (nose/snout, in the foreground below) and the oreja (ear, in the background) tacos. The trompa gets a general thumbs up, although the glistening cubes of fatty tissue are probably best consumed in small quantitites. The oreja shares the unctuousness of the trompa, with an added textural component – the cartilage from the ear may be off-putting to some. But both are really nicely seasoned, and dryness? Not a problem here.
The next plate offered more traditional cuts: (foreground and background, below) maciza (shoulder) and costillas (ribs), with a cuerito (skin) taco nestled in the middle. For those wanting more lean cuts of pig flesh, the shoulder and ribs are the way to go, although both are still really flavorful and juicy. The cuerito taco, filled with thin slices of skin, is a return to the meltingly fatty.
Finally we moved on to the nana (uterus, in the foreground,left), the buche (stomach, in the background, left), and the surtida (combination, right). The uterus is chewy with just a touch of iron-y depth, while the stomach is more tender, less elastic in texture. If any one single texture squicks you out, you may want to try the surtida, which combines all the cuts except the nana to great effect.
The tacos are generally good, though the novelty of ordering from a range of pig parts may trump the taste. For us, we can now cross pig uterus off our list of porcine products to try. How about you? What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?