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The L.A. TACO Guide to the Best Birria Served In a Bowl and In Consomé – Birria Week

3:34 PM PST on November 18, 2021

    Welcome to L.A. TACO’s Birria Week! Birria in Los Angeles is limitless, with some birrierías open for close to 50 years. Even though there’s a heated debate between birria de res and chivo. AT L.A. TACO,  we celebrate both, and the folks doing new things altogether. We’ll be exploring the many ways to find and eat birria in L.A. all week long, so make sure to check back every day this week.

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    In Los Angeles, birria in the form of a taco, is a relatively new thing. Before beef became the norm, if you’re talking about birria in L.A.,  it was made with chivo.

    That meant a comforting bowl of steamy consomé with bones jutting out, as if they’re trying to escape the bowl. Birria de chivo is what they eat in Jalisco, where my mom is from, and it’s a beautiful thing, transforming a gamey protein through the alchemy of adobo. 

    In my childhood, birria was served on styrofoam plates with a side of rice and beans or in a bowl of consomé. The only birria tacos that existed were the ones you made yourself with tortillas. Birria is often a communal experience, whether it’s a large format protein with a side of tortillas, or served on disposable plates at a family gathering. Birria is the great unifier. These birrierías have existed for many decades, destroying hangovers and unifying the people of L.A. for years to come.

    Birrieria Baldomero #2

    If you’ve ever tried to escape Downtown traffic going south on Maple Avenue, you’ve likely come across a bright orange building with two virgencitas painted on it’s walls. That orange building belongs to Birriería Baldomero #2, the number distinction is important as this location is only dine-in. If you want your birria de chivo to go, head to the first location, a shack a block away from #2. Once you walk into the birriería, the (funky) aroma of goat fills the large room that looks like a cafeteria or converted small church. You’ll see families gathering around various white bowls, small ones filled with chopped white onion, another with cilantro, and another with goat ribs sticking out of a cloudy red-orange broth. Along the walls are various fridges filled with bottled sodas and beers, which you’ll be instructed to grab on your own. The birria en caldo arrives at the table with ribs sticking out of the bowl like a shipwrecked goat skeleton in the treacherously comforting waters of consomé. The chivo is soft from the stewing with a clean broth and really wakes up with a few squirts of salsa and lime. The tortillas are poor quality so make sure to order a side of rice and beans.

    3104 Maple Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011

    Birria en caldo from Birrieria Tlaquepaque. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.
    Birria en caldo from Birrieria Tlaquepaque. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.

    Birrieria Tlaquepaque #2

    Birrieria Tlaquepaque in the Florence-Graham neighborhood is known for serving bowls of stewed goat, with speedy service so fast that if you blink, magically, a bowl will appear in front of you. The dining area has mirrors along the walls along with murals of an idyllic ranch with animals grazing, a couple in a horse and carriage, a valiant man on a horse, and one with the words "Tlaquepaque" overlaid over a mariachi and a couple dancing. If you take a look around you'll see shallow white bowls with roasted chivo in a tomato-forward consomé. Each order comes with a segmented bowl with the toppings: onions, cilantro, and limes, a bag of tortillas chips, and a container with refried beans. You can get the birria con huesitos (with bones) or pura carne, depending on your preference. Add some earthy but infernal salsa and eat it with tortillas or as a soup. One man dressed in a vaquero hat, makes a taco, takes a bite, then sips the redish orange broth, all while on the phone. A majestic sight that's both enlightening and entertaining.

    1734 E Florence Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90001

    Chamorro from Birrieria Jalisco. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.
    Chamorro from Birrieria Jalisco. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.

    Birriería Jalisco

    Located at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood, Birriería Jalisco has been operating for close to 19 years serving some of the city’s best birria. The ample dining space is great for larger crowds but you’ll often see folks popping in on their lunch breaks for a cheve and a birria quesadilla covered in a shallow pool of consomé. While they do offer birria de res, their specialty is goat, like the state in their namesake. While most restaurants love to say things like “family-style,” few reach the levels of sharing the way Birriería Jalisco does. You can order a full order, a large plate with roasted goat (with bone or not), or a media, half. But let’s say you just saw an episode of the Flintstones and you want a piece of cartoon-sized protein, go for the chamorro. A massive goat shank with dark roasted flesh served with a mug of tomato-heavy consomé and tortillas. You can tear a piece with a fork but just grab it with the tortilla and find the hidden pockets of gelatinous fat, in between sips (or dips) of consomé. The consomé is a potent brew of rendered goat fat and a caramelized sweetness of tomatoes, complicated further with a few dabs of the earthy chile de árbol salsa. Make sure to try the tepache if it’s your first time, a fermented pineapple drink sweetened with piloncillo.

    3180 E Imperial Hwy unit D, Lynwood, CA 90262

    Birria plate (para to-go) from Zacatecas Restaurant. Photo by Memo Torres.
    Birria plate (para to-go) from Zacatecas Restaurant. Photo by Memo Torres.

    Zacatecas Restaurant

    For a plate of roasted beef birria, go to Zacatecas Restaurant in Hawthrone. This quaint restaurant is located in a strip mall with a hair salon, tobacco store, and yarn shop. They have an extensive menu of dishes like wet burritos topped with blistered cheese, enchiladas, fried mojarras (whole tilapia), chilaquiles, various mariscos, and chile verde; all served on nostalgic white plates with brown outlines along the edges. But their secret (off-menu) specialty is a Zacatecas-style birria. A hefty plate of roasted beef in a silky consomé. The sauce over the beef is thick with tomato puree, the water content is almost completely evaporated, concentrating its power. It's served with rice and beans, a side of chopped onion, cilantro, and a dangerous red salsa.

    13737 S Inglewood Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250

    Birria plate from El Parian. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.
    Birria plate from El Parian. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.

    El Parian

    One of L.A.’s most celebrated birrierías with a mighty plate of roasted goat resting in a steamy jacuzzi of consomé. Weekends at El Parian bustling with families sharing plates of birria, some like to order it with the consomé on the side, or burritos, tacos de asada, pozole with puffed jumbo-sized hominy. Each birria order comes with its standard accouterments like limón, raw onion, cilantro, rabanos, and tortillas, for tacos or to bite between sips of consomé. This birriería has long been a portal to the Jalisco-style birria de chivo, mostly sought over for its hangover-annihilating properties. You’ll see a warning on the menu to watch for small bones but life’s a risk homie, you’re here for a good time, not a long time.

    1528 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

    Media orden from Birrieria Nochistlan. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.
    Media orden from Birrieria Nochistlan. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.

    Birriería Nochistlan

    At Birriería Nochistlan in Boyle Heights, they’re not concerned with hiding chivo’s gaminess, instead their birria flaunts it. The outside of this birriería has the same color scheme as El Chapulín Colorado, red and yellow, commanding the eye of drivers who pass it on 4th street. Inside this cozy restaurant are less than a dozen tables with warm accented walls and a TV with a novela on loop. Nochistlan specializes in birria platos and bowls as well as tacos de cabeza on exceptional yellow corn tortillas. The first bite is a shock, the gaminess of the rendered goat fat coats your mouth, only to reveal its complexity after each bite. The consomé is relatively thin and tastes of chiles, tomatoes, and goat fat, letting the chivo take center stage. Order an extra side of tortillas, it is honestly one of the best parts of the dining experience.

    3200 East 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90063

    Costillas from Birrieria Don Boni. Photo by Cesar Hernandez. copy
    Costillas from Birrieria Don Boni. Photo by Cesar Hernandez.

    Birrieria Don Boni

    Since 1972, the owners of Birriería Don Boni have been on a mission to share their family recipe for birria. Don Boni is located on 1st street, next door to Espacio 1839, and a short walk away from Mariachi Plaza. The birria at Don Boni is special, the goat is stewed until tender then thrown in the oven so the protein roasts and the fat renders into the consomé. It’s served in a thick sauce that tastes of an excess of spices, goat fat, chiles, tomatoes, and smoke, from the toasted ingredients. Few birria in L.A. have the smoke factor which expands its intensity and complexity, while virtually eliminating all traces of gaminess. It is a birria that tastes familiar but evergreen at the same time.

    1845 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

    Birria tatemada from Birria El Jaliciense. Photo by Javier Cabral.
    Birria tatemada from Birria El Jaliciense. Photo by Javier Cabral.

    Birria El Jalisciense

    The only thing on the menu is their birria tatemada. Chopped goat meat that is steamed for four hours before finishing in the oven to achieve a type of birria-flavored bark not unlike the bark you’ll find on a good piece of BBQ. You can get it on a plate with a ladle of a tomato-rich consomé and a pile of tortillas, or tucked inside tortillas in taco dorado form. The reason why this broth is more tomato heavy is because Hector prepares it in the style of his hometown, Belén del Refugio, Jalisco. This region is closer to Aguascalientes, where they are known to use more tomatoes in the broth than Jalisco. - Javier Cabral

    Weekends: 3442 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023

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