Last October, we first published this guide to the city’s burgeoning beef birria scene. The fad had begun a year earlier with the appearance of Birria-Landia, a truck that pulled up on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. It was an instant hit and continues to generate long lines even as other birria trucks appeared, and Birria-Landia added a second truck in Williamsburg. We now introduce six more destinations to our map. Note: three locations feature lamb, rather than beef, and here’s to hoping some places begin serving the more traditional goat birria soon.
Meanwhile, here’s a thumbnail history of the gastro-phenomenon:
I had my first taste of birria in 2003 at Birrieria Chalio in East Los Angeles. It was a brick-red stew with a vast wad of goat plopped in the middle, bones and all, served with cilantro, chopped onions, lime wedges, and a steaming pile of fresh tortillas. It was unforgettable, and every ounce of the broth got gobbled up. The armloads of dried red chiles that went into the dish had subjugated the horned mammal and its sinews, rendering the meat as soft as a cashmere sweater.
Birria arose in the state of Jalisco and spread across a wide swath of Mexico going north, proceeding through Tijuana. There, it became a principal street food, often peddled as tacos rather than stew, eventually setting down in LA, more often in stew form, as “the single best regional Mexican dish,” according to Jonathan Gold. Along the way, a beef version became popular. It was this iteration that appeared in 2019 in Jackson Heights at the Birria-Landia truck, causing a sensation.
Sure, we’d had beef birria before, notably at the El Bronco truck near Green-Wood Cemetery in south Brooklyn, where it was served like a stew in a paper cup, and a few other places, such as Sabor a Mexico and Taqueria Coatzingo as tacos. But the birria wasn’t served in the typical way, with consomme on the side, nor were the tortillas dipped in juices first. Now we have several reasonably traditional renditions served in a taco format, with the tortillas dipped before stuffing, and a consomme sometimes served on the side. Ideally, birria tacos should be not only moist, but sloppy, and here’s where to find ’em.
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