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Viva Mexico

At this teeny, cash-only restaurant on 12th Avenue in Little Havana, Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán, the slogan is "las únicas y las mejores" -- the best and the only ones. No other restaurant in town proffers authentic carnitas, at least according to owner Andres Tovar. Carnitas is not just a dish. It's a cooking process that involves layering various cuts of pork in a heavy pot: the shoulder, tongue, stomach, ears, ribs, and rind. The swine sections are stacked in order of cooking time. They are then immersed in lard. Cooked over low heat in a method similar to the French confit, collagen breaks down. Tough meats become moist and tender. After two hours, the hog's flesh oozes with the pure flavors of unadulterated swine. Although the carnitas specialty involves only pork, Tovar concedes and offers steak and chicken varieties as well. But these superfluous items are the least tasty on his concise menu, which is packed with $1.75 pork offal and $2 beef tripe tacos. The most popular offerings are the tacos campechanos -- a tortilla filled with a mix of luscious pork shoulder and crisp chicharrón -- and the surtido, a variety stuffed with each pork item on the menu: ear, stomach, tongue, shoulder, and rind.