Miguel Lopez left his native town of Puebla, Mexico, more than 20 years ago, but he never lost his taste for good barbacoa-- the Mexican pit barbecue that leaves meat savory and almost flaking off the bone.
So Lopez built a barbecue in the back yard of his home and began cooking for family and friends, wrapping a lamb or goat in agave leaves and roasting it slowly for hours in the pit. Now he also serves barbacoa every Sunday at Los Jarritos, the Pomona restaurant he manages on Towne Avenue.
The standing-room-only crowd comes from miles away to feast on the succulent barbecued meats and other Mexican specialties, including carne asada, huevos rancheros , machaca (shredded beef) and menudo (tripe soup).
But the main attraction remains the barbacoa.
"On Sunday, people ask for something special, something different, and this is a family tradition," says Lopez, who wears a gold chain with an emblem that reads "Los Jarritos 1." "Even people who move away, they still come back to Pomona on Sunday for my barbacoa. "
He isn't kidding. On a recent sweltering Sunday morning, Los Jarritos was packed with patrons waiting for tables to open. In the jammed parking lot, a vendor was taking advantage of the crowds by setting up displays of audio cassettes for sale : nortena music from Los Tigres de Norte to Pedro Infante.
Tacked on the restaurant door was a hand-lettered sign: " Barbacoa estilo Texcoco hoy ," it read, announcing to patrons that the barbecue served here is in the style of Texcoco, a neighborhood in Mexico City. Inside, waiters scurried around, bringing plates of steaming barbacoa and Penafiel, the Mexican soft drink that comes in flavors like tamarind and sangria.
It's clearly an informal, Formica-and-linoleum place where families bring both the kids and grandma. The patrons range from a young man wearing a revealing tank top to an 84-year-old woman wrapped in a shawl, despite the heat.
At Los Jarritos, each order comes with rice, beans, salad, a dollop of guacamole, tortillas, a freshly chopped salsa of tomatoes, chiles and cilantro, and a greasy soup that is heavy on salt and vegetables.
Portions are hearty. Patrons can sprinkle on condiments ranging from a smoky red chile sauce to dried oregano, lemons and chopped onions.
Prices range from $1.05 for a soft taco to $7.80 for a combination plate. The barbacoa special is $6.95.
Los Jarritos also sells barbacoa to go, $10 a pound. The restaurant closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday, but the barbacoa usually runs out long before then.
Los Jarritos is at 246 S. Towne Ave. in Pomona. Phone is (909) 623-3888. Los Jarritos 2, which doesn't serve barbacoa specials, is at 3191 N. Garey Avenue in Pomona.