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Friday, June 20, 2008

If Pigs Could Fly...

OK, I'm starting to feel a little fickle, making multiple bold pronouncements about "the best bar snack." But I just keep running across really great ones! So, I do still love the Khyber's Pretzel Dog. I'm definitely still heading up to the Memphis Taproom for pasties. I do periodically need those bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed figs at Chick's.

But... I think we may have a new champion, and it's hard to imagine a credible challenge to this brilliant concept: Pork Wings.

Yes, that's right, like Buffalo Chicken Wings, but made with a vastly superior raw material. As far as I know, they haven't been doing any weird genetic modifications to cause pigs to sprout wings, these are actually pork shanks, with the bones frenched to make convenient handles. We had these as a special at Cantina Los Caballitos, although rumor has it that something similar is on the blackboard at Royal Tavern.

The sauce is more substantial than the traditional hot sauce and butter coating for buffalo wings, there's a nice barbecue-ish tang to it, and a bit of heat. The blue cheese dip might be a little predictable, but it's delicious, and a revered combo for a reason. The "wings" themselves are much meatier, with deeper flavor and less grease than a traditional chicken wing. It appears that they're grilled, or maybe broiled, definitely not deep-fried, giving them a perfect caramelized crust, but not an oily coating.

This one's going to be hard to beat... so I feel confident getting behind this one as the true champion, the best bar snack in the city.

We couldn't just get the wings though. So we needed some empanadas, which were better than ever. I really loved these when the Cantina first opened, then there was a mid-period when they were still good, but not transcendent, but I'm happy to say that they're back to being as good as ever, maybe better than ever. Tender pastry, wrapping a moist, flavorful shredded meat, that's all I ever ask for from an empanada.

We also got the Pork Anticuchos, rum-glazed grilled skewers of pork, served over a quinoa salad. Somehow I didn't manage to get a good photo of them, but they were quite attractive, but more importantly, delicious, with a nice char on the outside, but remaining juicy.

But the real reason we came was for the Goat Tacos. I've had a few goat tacos at taquerias around South Philly, but I never loved those. I'm not sure what prompted me to try these, they may have been recommended by Shola from StudioKitchen, and when he says something is worth checking out, I believe him!

And indeed, over the last six months or so, these have become one of my favorite things to eat anywhere. There's a depth of flavor to these that leaves most other tacos tasting bland in comparison, yet this version doesn't have that funky, gamey taste that so often shows up in this meat. There's something about the spicing and cooking technique that chef Mark McKinney uses that renders the meat tender, juicy, and vibrant.

I've been especially liking these with a little dab of guacamole and some pineapple salsa, but I'll also happily eat them plain. If you've never thought of eating goat, this might be the place to try it, you won't be sorry.

So, between the pork "wings" the empanadas and the goat tacos, this meal contained some of my favorite things. And the rest was pretty darn tasty too...

Cantina Los Caballitos
1651 East Passyunk Ave
South Philly
(215) 755-3550

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