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L.A.’s First Taquero to Serve Tijuana-Style ‘Birria de Lengua’ Is Now Slanging Tacos in East Los Angeles

12:40 PM PDT on April 8, 2021

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he Tijuana taqueros with the salsa voladora and the mesquite-grilled adobada, Tacos Don Cuco, bring another weekend birria pop-up to the streets of East Los Angeles. It’s called Birria Don Cuco Estilo Tijuana, and their specialty? Birria de lengua. 

    “Tienen Birria de Lengua?” asks a customer on Saturday morning. “Si” responds Manuel Mendez, aka, “El Wero”, the popular Don Cuco taquero with the Allen Iverson-esque taco handles. The customer lets out a big sigh of relief followed by an “Hay, que bueno!” And she has reason to be excited. As much as birria has flooded our streets and Instagram feeds with cheese pulls and taco dunks, birria de lengua has remained a rarity. 

    “Birria de lengua is more common in Tijuana,” tells us Jonathan Rios of Don Cuco. “This particular birria de lengua we learned from our friends, Birria Doña Maggy, in Tijuana.” They also bring with them a specialized cart from Tijuana that holds the large birria-filled broth at table height, making it easy to reach down and pick the next tongue to be served. 

    Someone once called lengua the ‘filet mignon of taco meats’ and that may not be a far-off comparison. It’s a mostly lean cut of meat with a buttery tenderness in texture, but unlike filet mignon, lengua is unjustly underrated. Many taqueros in Los Angeles forget to appreciate this desirable quality of lengua and treat it like any meat by chopping it up to its shredded end and denying the taco eater the experience of biting through its meaty texture. But not at Birria Don Cuco; they serve this coveted meat in sugar cube-sized chunks piled onto a tortilla, covered in onions, cilantro, and sweat-inducing hot red salsa.

    We personally recommend the vampiro de lengua; that added crunch completes the tender beef tongue and the grilled cheese layer is going to help cut that rich power of their seasoned birria flavor. 

    This undertaking requires double-time shifts from Rios and Mendez. The weekend routine starts when they pack up the Tacos Don Cuco stand at one in the morning to have the birria ready at 8 AM giving them only a few hours of sleep at night and a couple of hours to break in the afternoon between shutting down the birria stand and going back to Tacos Don Cuco. It’s an incredible dedication to their birria craft. 

    They also offer birria de res and you can order a taco, mulita, vampiro, or tostada. We personally recommend the vampiro de lengua; that added crunch completes the tender beef tongue and the grilled cheese layer is going to help cut that rich power of their seasoned birria flavor. 

    In a city with birria in every other corner, this birria de lengua stands out. 

    Birria Don Cuco is popping up Saturday and Sundays from 8 AM - 1 PM at 759 S. Ferris Ave, East Los Angeles, CA 90022

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