Andres Tovar searched for swine stomach everywhere. When he moved to Miami seven years ago, he visited grocery stores and butcher shops. He perused supermarket signs, talked to meat vendors, and gazed at pork cuts such as jowl, ribs, and belly through glass display cases. But Tovar was looking for what he knew as buche in Spanish. He nearly gave up in despair.
But then he learned that the common word for buche in Miami is actually estómago and that beef tripe is chinchulín, not tripa. Now he knows that to find pig parts, he needs only to call a supplier. He still marvels at the idea of buying offal by the pound.
"In Michoacán, you buy a whole pig and you get two ears, one stomach, and one tongue. You are limited to the parts of a single body," he says. "My friends back home laugh when I tell them I can order 30 pounds of pig ears."
An affable man with chocolate-colored eyes and a deep tan complexion, Tovar was raised in Michoacán, a state in central Mexico where hogs are purchased whole and pig parts are prepared in a cooking process called carnitas.
Tovar has strong feelings about his carnitas, and it shows at his teeny, cash-only restaurant on 12th Avenue in Little Havana, Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán. His 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 Tovar. (He does admit there's a group of Michoacanos doing a fair job in Homestead, though.)
Tovar believes authenticity is the sole key to his success. On a sweltering Saturday afternoon, while sipping on a Sidral Mundet apple soda and reclining on a plastic Lifetime-brand table outside his restaurant, Tovar asks whether I've ever heard of Yelp. "A group of Japanese tourists told me about it," he says. "We are the only taquería in Miami with five stars on there! And you know why? Because this is authentic carnitas."
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.
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