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El Parian ~ Pico-Union

12:44 PM PDT on August 3, 2009


El Parian ~ 1528 W Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90015

If you are what you eat, then soy cabron :). I try to get my hands on a bowl of birria every weekend and El Parian is Grand Central Station on the golden goat soup route. It has a down-home vibe, comfortable, and family-heavy and has been here for decades. Sporadic polka and a tempo of surgically precise bone-cleaving form the soundtrack during mornings here, while firecracker waitresses wink and smile, dropping lemonade off at your table.

El Parian's menu is sparse but expert, with few offerings besides goat, a revered asada plate, and weekend menudo. Killer tacos await those who choose to vary, but birria is what they do best here (the store-bought chips are not). In half or full orders, a large bowl of dark orange peppery brew comes mostly displaced by large, glimmering chunks of kid. A traditional birria side plate of cilantro, cebolla, lime, and radish accompanies your bowl, along with a few tortillas.


I love playing with my food. Dumping all accoutrement into the bowl and attempting to make my own tacos with the wet mixture, the filled tortilla then gets a dip in the drink. Every bite sprays goat broth all over my hands and mouth, and lots of the contents plop back in the bowl.

The birria here is a deeply flavored broth that screams roast meat with a surplus of soul. The slightly rusty taste of goat flesh permeates throughout, with the sharp sting of the limon, sweetness of the chopped white onions, and herbal kick of the cilantro offering interesting opposition and teamwork. The oily peppered broth has a smooth feel that gets trapped in the crags of the meat to ooze out in every sublime bite, the silky feel often aided by a strip of fat wrapped over the meat. While some cubes of the birria are pure edible flesh with the consistency of good short ribs, others come still attached to spinal cords and tendons, possibly daunting for squeamish city-slickers.  Country boys play bone collector and try to figure out where each shard would go back into the goat.

I might never understand why such a populous nation as China seems to have so many pecker problems that they cut the horns off of endangered rhinos and the fins off of sharks, claiming it inspires "sexual strength." Don't they got plenty goat "back East?" Birria has a rep for being a carnivore's version of Viagra, an urban myth I can only surmise is accurate. Consuming birria for me is invigorating, sticking long to the ribs and fortifying the body, a feeling of hearty satiety that almost lasts until the next weekend.

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