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Oven-Roasted, Beautifully Charred Goat ‘Birria Tatemada’ Has Arrived in Boyle Heights

5:23 PM PST on January 24, 2020

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] lot is on the line when you take that first suspenseful bite of a taco from a random neighborhood taqueria you decided to stop and try: Will you hit the Taco Life jackpot and come across the latest regional style? Or will you find yet another overcooked disappointment? 

    At Birrieria El Jalisciense, it is gloriously the former. El Jalisciense is an unassuming stand run by the Ramirez family that sets up only on Saturday mornings in front of an industrial laundromat on Olympic Boulevard between Spence and Velasco Streets.

    The word “birria” gets tossed around a lot in L.A.’s taco scene and it may come as a shock to many that the spiced shredded beef we have all come to love here is an evolution of the dish that originated in Jalisco. In its original form, birria is goat. And it is a dish that originated when the Spanish invaded Mexico—specifically Jalisco—and offered goat, considered to be low-quality, stringier, stinkier meat, to Mexico’s indigenous population. Not one to eat a bland meal, they slathered it with chiles and other newly arrived spices like ginger and clove and roasted it with fire until goat greatness. 

    This tradition of birria tatemada or birria al horno has been maintained in small towns all over Jalisco and especially in Guadalajara. There, you’ll find it advertised in birrierias when you’re speeding by Los Altos de Jalisco on your way to Aguascalientes or small stands while passing Tequila to Puerto Vallarta. But never in Los Angeles, until now.

    As a result of this two-stage cooking process, the birria in question is crispy, tender, and full of those nice and fatty pieces that makes goat so special.

    Every Saturday for the past year, Hector Ramirez, has been offering this charred goat in Boyle Heights industrial district. You’ve probably driven by Hector’s handmade “Birria al Horno” sign a few times trying to beat the crowds of El Ruso or passed by heading to Mariscos Jalisco if you were coming from L.A.’s real eastside. In Los Angeles, before El Jalisciense, the only other place that offered this style that we all knew about was Birrieria Jalisco in Plaza Mexico.

    Unless you live or have a studio in this part of the neighborhood, there is absolutely no way you would have known about it. The stand has no online presence. Not a Yelp account. Not an Instagram account, which is almost an accomplishment on its own in 2020. L.A. Taco was tipped off via our Paisawire. 

    “I’ve been working, perfecting my birria for the last 20 years and every time I still learn something new.”

    The stand operates from 8 AM until they are out. Hector mans the portable propane-fired oven and chops the roasted chivo. His wife Marisela takes the orders and handles the money, and their teenage daughter Gisel is the server. 

    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. 

    It is the type of birria that will soften the blow of having birria in the States again after a trip to go see your extended family in Jalisco because it is actually comparable to the life-changing chivo that you’ll find at El Chololo near Chapala or at La Victoria in Guadalajara’s Santa Teresita neighborhood. 

    Hector goes through three fresh goats that he sources from a butcher connect in Fontana. “I get them younger than the goat meat you see at other places,” he shares while chopping up some tender meat. “My grandfather is a birriero and so are my cousins,” he shares. “It runs in my family.” He has a day job, which is why he only does this one day a week. 

    As a result of this two-stage cooking process, the birria in question is crispy, tender, and full of those nice and fatty pieces that makes goat so special. It is the type of birria that will soften the blow of having birria in the States again after a trip to go see your extended family in Jalisco because it is actually comparable to the life-changing chivo that you’ll find at El Chololo near Chapala or at La Victoria in Guadalajara’s Santa Teresita neighborhood. 

    For now, Hector is happy catering to this organic clientele that he’s built with his family, but he would love to one day be a full-time taquero. “I’ve been working, perfecting my birria for the last 20 years and every time I still learn something new.”

    Birrieria El Jalisciense is open from 8 AM until they sell out every Saturday. They are at 3436 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023

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