In 2019, Los Angeles’ bowls runneth over with birria, the Mexican confederation of recipes involving meat rubbed, roasted or slowly stewed in an alloy of chiles, herbs and spices.
While different states and scholars may debate the dish’s defining features — with proud, multigenerational birrieros in Jalisco frequently taking a stance against the goat-less, beef-based style recently imported en masse from Tijuana — we see only a blessing: a shining city in which more than a few regional styles and long-held family recipes are available in just a short drive.
Be it cuts of kid drowning in a bowl of broth, shredded birria de res scooped into fresh tortillas, or sauceless goat plated in an assortment of ribs and backbones with consommé on the side, the variations out there appear infinite, though you can expect diced onions, cilantro, lime and some form of molten salsa.
And if you’re anything like us, you’ll slop as much broth into, onto and over your tacos or plate as possible.
Here’s a primer on the places you need to know right now to get your birria on:
Birria De Res
Teddy’s Red Tacos: The birria de res scene’s rising star, Teddy’s grew from owner Teddy Vasquez’s car trunk to multiple locations and a Super Bowl commercial. According to L.A. Times critic Patricia Escárcega, “The restaurant’s consommé-stained, orange-on-red Deluxe plate has become an Instagram commodity as captivating and instantly recognizable as an oversize Rothko.”
731 E. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles; 46 Windward Ave., Venice, facebook.com/teddysredtacos/
Burritos La Palma: Jonathan Gold described the Zacatecan beef birria burrito as “a toasty, stretchy tortilla wrapped tightly around a few tablespoons of mildly spiced shredded beef,” while Gustavo Arellano called it “the best taco in Southern California” in 2016.
5120 N. Peck Road, El Monte, (626) 350-8286; 410 N. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (657) 266-0575; 3939 S. Figueroa, Los Angeles, (213) 419-9465; burritoslapalma.net
L.A. Birria: This street-side griddle recently opened to bring the pleasures of birria de res to West Adams. You’ll be greeted with a complimentary cup of hot consommé before tearing into juicy, packed quesadillas, burritos and tacos dorados.
4422 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, instagram.com/l.a_birria
Birrieria San Marcos: Birria de res is served in a variety of menu items at this San Fernando Valley truck wrapped in a photo of a Dodgers game in full swing. Tortas, tacos, mulitas and vast containers of birria en caldo are available. The essential thing is one of the town’s cheesiest, crispiest, most indulgent vampiros.
8660 Woodley Ave., North Hills, facebook.com/birrieriasanmarcos1
Birrieria Gonzalez: With multiple trucks and an East L.A. cafe, Gonzalez is spreading the gospel of its birria de res through meaty mulitas, quesadillas, tacos dorados and tacos rolled into distinctive, Tijuana-style cones, bearing intricate spices and a pronounced heat.
2524 Maple Ave., Los Angeles; 5458 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles; 4408 E. Rose St., Compton; 5000 Pacific Blvd., Vernon; 1301 E. Rosecrans Ave., Compton, instagram.com/birrieria_gonzalez
Birria de Res La Tia Juana: This colorful truck sets up seven days a week in South L.A. to sell tacos, quesadillas and birria en caldo overflowing with spicy, broth-saturated meat, as well as mulitas hemmed with lacy webs of crisp cheese.
4027 S. Main St., Los Angeles, (213) 985-9778, instagram.com/birria_la_tiajuana
Tacos El Primo: At this birria de res stand that materializes Saturdays and Sundays in a vacant South L.A. lot across from Tejada’s Auto Electric, you’ll watch your taquero hoist a massive cut of beef from a huge pot of broth, slicing it into bite-size bits and bobs for your tacos, tostaditas and tacos dorados. You’ll need to arrive early before it’s all gone, but at least you’ll have great consommé to warm your bones.
2214 S. Hooper Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 245-0768, https://www.facebook.com/Tacos-el-primo-571429759901875/
Pobres Tacos: Opened by a former sushi chef, this family-run sidewalk griddle offers Westsiders and midcity residents their shot at juicy quesabirrias filled with red-stained beef and glued together with mozzarella, as well as tacos, quesadillas and giant burritos with toppings that include pickled nopales.
6136 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 621-5283, pobrestacosla.com
Birria de Chivo
El Parian: This Pico-Union stalwart may be L.A.’s most famous birria de chivo destination, thanks to boosting by big fan Jonathan Gold. Enter to the percussive beat of a cleaver before sitting to a slow-cooked, spice-rich Jaliscan broth bearing the occasional bone splinter, served with a stack of hot tortillas and compulsory lime, onion and cilantro.
1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 386-7361, instagram.com/elparianbirria
Birrieria Nochistlan: Formerly known as Flor del Rio, Nochistlan is No. 1 when it comes to Zacatecas-style birria de chivo. Thick, handmade tortillas attend tender steamed goat, offered on or off the bone, saturated with a buttery tan broth you will cut with a searing salsa roja and the customary accouterments.
3200 E. 4th St., Los Angeles, (323) 268-0319, instagram.com/birrierianochistlan
Tacos y Birria La Unica: The biggest name in birria tacos dorados (thanks to an endorsement from Chrissy Teigen), this Boyle Heights truck draws lines for quesatacos and tacos dorados filled with shredded birria de res or chivo in the style of Michoacán. An excellent salsa selection, house-made aguas frescas and proximity to Mariscos Jalisco (in case you are planning a surf-and-turf taco expedition) only sweeten the deal.
2850 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 715-4025, facebook.com/TacosyBirriaLaUnica/
Birrieria Calvillo Aguascalientes: Descended from a beloved birrieria in Aguascalientes, Mexico, this SoCal outfit offers bowls of shredded goat buried beneath a blanket of thick, spicy and bright red salsa. It’s open Fridays through Sundays.
12056 Valley Blvd., El Monte, (626) 443-1940, facebook.com/pages/Birrieria-Calvillo-Aguascalientes/520198314797451?nr
Birrieria Apatzingan: Representing the city of Apatzingan, in Michoacan’s Tierra Caliente Valley, chef Martin Cruz’s simmered medley of aromatic herbs, spices and succulent, shredded boneless goat is popular with the Pacoima public and critics alike. Find it en caldo or on generous combo plates paired with handmade tortillas and a coffee cup full of red consommé.
10040 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Pacoima, (818) 890-6265, facebook.com/Birrieria-Apatzingan-174092355959537/
Birrieria Baldomeros No. 2: Back in 1994, Jonathan Gold dubbed the birria at this 49-year-old South L.A. classic “good and strong ... stewy and soft as a long-cooked lamb shank, generous in bones and cartilage and secret bits of flesh.” It’s nice knowing that little has changed in 25 years.
3104 Maple Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 482-7355, birrieriabaldomero2.com
Birrieria de Don Boni: This 47-year-old Boyle Heights birrieria represents Guadalajara with a 100-year-old family recipe. Tender goat is offered in part-specific servings, including ribs, legs and hulking foreshanks, served with a squeeze bottle of dark red salsa and a thick gravy of a consommé that tastes more than a little like tomato soup.
1845 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (323) 262-4552, birrieriadonboni.com
Birrieria Tlaquepaque: These purveyors of Jalisco-style birria are a favorite of chivo lovers, serving goaty birria bowls with a carnivorously unbalanced meat-to-broth ratio, as well as plates of boneless birria, dry or drenched in broth. On the side, you’ll have tomato-based consommé, a squeeze bottle of very hot salsa, handmade tortillas and if you order right, a cup of tepache.
1734 E. Florence Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 581-0800; 10904 Rush St., El Monte, (626) 279-9191
The Goat Mafia: You’ll find Juan Garcia, a fourth-generation birriero from Compton, and his family recipe (from Tamazula de Gordiano, Jalisco) Saturday nights at his Echo Park pop-up and at events around the city. Simmered up to nine hours with ingredients including chocolate and oranges from his uncle’s house, he covers the stew with a brick of pork fat. The pork, imbued with the flavors of young goat, is then turned into a chicharrón-topped taco.
625 N. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, facebook.com/TheGoatMafiaGrillandCatering