Unless you’ve avoided the internet for the past three years or left civilization to join a commune in the woods, there’s a good chance you’ve come across birria by now. This Mexican meat stew is having a moment, and not just in LA. You can find excellent versions in Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, NYC, but we like to think LA is at least a little superior.
Like most great things in life, birria has an interesting story to tell. Originally from Jalisco, it’s traditionally made with goat, served in a bowl, and usually enjoyed on the weekends with older relatives who swear it can cure a 102º fever (or Sunday morning hangover). However, at some point, birria made its way north to Tijuana where it underwent a dramatic makeover. The goat was swapped out for beef, the broth was thinned out for optimal dunking, and cheese was added to create the glorious birria quesataco. Once Californians got word of Tijuana’s birria, so did the internet and eventually, the world.
LA is now home to a wide range of birria options, with everything from traditional goat birria to Tijuana-style quesatacos, and even more contemporary creations like birria ramen. Here are the 10 best places to get birria right now.
Credited as one of LA’s birria pioneers, this family-owned truck in South Central has been serving their Tijuana-style version since opening in 2015. The magic behind Birrieria Gonzalez’s success is the smokiness of their consommé. The broth’s dried ancho, pasilla, and árbol chiles are the stars of the show and serve as the perfect foundation for the taqueros’ slow-cooked meat. In true Tijuana fashion, heaping piles of shredded beef are tucked inside large crispy tortillas to create their signature tacos dorados. Afterward, chopped onions, cilantro, and a dash of smoky salsa roja are added on top to round everything out. This taco dorado is a personal favorite of mine because it’s the closest thing I’ve found to the many (many) late-night tacos I’ve enjoyed in Tijuana. And to make things even better, I don’t have to spend hours in border traffic afterward, asking myself why I ate six tacos in under 10 minutes.
Tacos Y Birria La Unica
Tacos Y Birria La Unica is the food truck for those in search of all things birria. With both beef and goat versions on the menu, you can enjoy either stew in a taco, quesataco, mulita, or even just on its own when visiting this Boyle Heights spot. The goat here is delicious, and the cash-only truck’s rich consommé does an excellent job of masking the meat’s natural gaminess. Our order here is the divine trio: goat birria taco, beef birria taco, and goat birria quesataco. When it comes to the quesatacos, La Unica gently fries their homemade tortillas before stuffing them with juicy birria meat and melted cheese. The quesataco’s cheese oozes out from the fried tortilla and has us questioning why we haven’t been stuffing our late-night quesadillas with goat all along. Try a bit of their habanero salsa for an extra kick too.
North Hollywood’s Birrieria San Marcos is a great spot for Jalisco-style beef birria, which is fresh and ready every day at 9am. For those mornings when you need something hearty, warm, and spicy to clear your brain fog, their birria en caldo is a guaranteed cure. This spicy broth is filled with plenty of onion, cilantro, and slow-cooked beef for a somewhat balanced breakfast. If you’re looking to throw something else into the mix, get their birria ramen, which is classic Maruchan noodles swimming in the house consommé. When it comes to feasting on birria, we throw the metaphorical rule book out the window, so don’t be surprised if you order a bit of everything and end up dunking your tacos in your ramen too.
If you’re a purist at heart, Birrieria Apatzingan is the place for you. This Pacoima restaurant prepares birria the original way: big steaming bowls of slow-cooked goat sitting in flavorful red consommé. The meat here is prepared to perfection, while the broth is also generously seasoned with hints of cumin, cinnamon, and dried chiles. The subtle sweetness of the soup is definitely a surprise at first, but we like surprises just as much as we like this Michoacan-style birria. Spritz some fresh lime on top and enjoy your caldo with some handmade corn tortillas. If you’re visiting in the warmer months and a bowl of hot soup sounds like a sweaty mess waiting to happen, order the equally delicious birria combo that ditches the broth for a side of beans and rice. But still get the tortillas, of course.
Torrance’s Tacos El Goloso is a beef birria spot that’s reliable for two things: generously stuffed tacos and extra crispy fried tortillas. Their tacos dorados glisten after being slathered in consommé, yet manage never to come out too oily. We’re also always impressed by their fried tortillas’ semi-soft centers that can hold all the birria without breaking apart, which is what makes El Goloso’s tacos dorados some of the most dippable in the city. Would we recommend dunking your tacos in a moving vehicle or mid-walk? Probably not, but that’s because we have trust issues with crunchy tortillas. However, these tasty birria tacos are genuinely bursting with meat and happily absorb all the juices from the spicy broth. Their birria taco dorado combo is a great deal at $8.50 and a quick fix for anyone looking for last-minute tacos for dinner.
Birria tatemada (roasted goat birria) is a Jalisco tradition that’s hard to come by outside of Guadalajara and its surrounding towns. However, the Ramirez family brought this cooking method to LA’s eastside with their weekend and cash-only operation. Come bright and early at 8am on Saturday mornings for freshly chopped goat meat that is steaming hot with a crispy bark exterior. Located at Olympic Blvd and Spence St., El Jalisciense has a two-stage cooking process that’s responsible for its birria’s silky smooth meat and wonderfully charred skin. The consommé here is also more tomato-heavy, which is typical of the region, and you can enjoy it with either fresh tortillas or as a taco dorado. We love this spot because it’s birria at its best: enjoyed outside in the early morning with the smell of roasted meat giving half-asleep admirers an excuse to be up at such an ungodly hour. This place only stays open until they run out, so come get it while it’s hot.
Many food trends that sweep through LA eventually reemerge in burrito form. Whether it’s the sushirrito, or Indian curry burrito our love for this rolled up staple is unshakable. That’s why no birria guide would be complete without mentioning the birria burrito at Burritos La Palma in Boyle Heights. Made with handmade Zacatecas-style flour tortillas, these tightly wrapped burritos are small pockets made with perfectly chewy tortillas that hold nothing except tender beef birria dripping in smokey consommé. That’s right, there’s no guac, cheese, or lettuce to be found in these, and that’s 100% OK by us. The birria is flavorful enough to stand on its own and pairs well with the buttery tortilla. Keep in mind that these burritos are small, so don’t expect the forearm-sized monsters you might see elsewhere.
Teddy’s Red Tacos began as another small birria operation before expanding into multiple locations across LA. While these highly-dunkable Tijuana-style tacos draw in fans from across town, it’s the fiery red consommé that really sets Teddy’s apart. The consommé’s mix of tomatoes, chiles, and herbs creates a rich color and flavor that takes everything on their griddle up a notch. Besides its potent staining power, Teddy’s broth also gives their tortillas a satisfying crunch and savoriness that lingers as it hardens. The birria de res is juicy and tender and creates great contrast with the tortilla’s crispiness. If you’re looking to deep dive into red consommé and birria, order their deluxe plate with cheese for the full experience. It comes with a birra quesotaco, birria mulita, birria tostada, birria quesadilla, an 8oz serving of broth, and stained fingers.
This is another Tijuana-style spot that showcases its slow-cooked beef birria in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s burritos, tacos dorados, tortas, or caldo you’re looking for, this Boyle Heights place has it. More importantly, tacos here are only $1 during their Taco Tuesday special. But if you’re more like us and consider every day to be taco day, head over to Birrieria Villalobos whenever you feel like it for their delicious consommé that’s packed with tender meat, fresh onion, cilantro, and a deep chile flavor. If you’re looking for something heavier, you can’t go wrong with their birria torta either. This massive birria sandwich is first soaked in spicy consommé so it gives in with each bite. It’s then filled with a mountain of meat, melted cheese, onions, and hot salsa roja for probably one of the biggest servings of birria you’ll find anywhere in LA.
Taquizas Gilberto is a weekend-only West Covina pop-up that serves Hidalgo-style birria and barbacoa, and the taqueros here are masters at cooking meat low and slow until it’s super tender. Barbacoa fans can try the dish’s traditional lamb preparation, as well as the goat birria that’s equally excellent. Taquizas Gilberto has plenty to sample, but one thing that stands out on the menu is the tacos dinamitas. These are actually more like flautas, and consist of generous portions of meat rolled up in a large corn tortilla before being deep-fried. The birria taco dinamita can be compared to a larger, crispier, and much tastier version of the taquito, but this doesn’t really do them justice. The meat makes up the majority of each bite and pulls apart as you sink your teeth into its crunchy tortilla shell, which you should definitely dip into some chile guajillo salsa.