The Twin Cities isn’t short on fantastic Mexican cuisine. Thanks to fine establishments like El Burrito Mercado, Hamburguesas El Gordo, La Tapatia, and more, finding a good taco, alambre, or delicious pozole is easy. However, a new renaissance has arrived, and it has just one name: Birria.
Birria was originally served for celebrations and holidays. But now birria has been becoming increasingly abundant in California, where Teddy’s Red Tacos has been catching press aplenty not only for the birria it cooks up, but also for its commercial spot during 2019’s Super Bowl LIII.
Birria is a concentrated and spicy stew made with meat using a variety of chiles and spices. Hailing from Guadelajara in Mexico’s Jalisco region, birria was once traditionally made with goat (birria de chivo) or sheep/mutton (birria de borrego), but its preparations have expanded to include Tijuana-style beef (Birria de Res) and chicken (Birria de Pollo). Birria usually comes with a consommé in a cup, lavishly garnished with fresh onions and cilantro, which can be either sprinkled atop tacos with a spoon, or used for dipping, like a French Dip's au jus.
With several birrierias springing up in California and other places, finding birria in the Twin Cities is a bit of an adventure. Spots like El Burrito Mercado and Cocina San Marcos in Mercado Central may experiment with birria as a special, or something they might serve on the weekends, and Fried Cheese Chicken and Beef Birria tacos graced Animales Barbecue's menu as specials this past summer. But as Gang Starr would say, the question remains: where can you find birria in the Twin Cities? Here are three spots where you can get your regular birria fix!
A.B.E. = All Birria Everything
The first stop on the birria train is Taqueria y Birrieria Las Cuatro Milpas. Sitting at the intersection of East Lake Street and Bloomington adjacent to Mercado Central, it’s a relative newcomer to Midtown Minneapolis. Known for its “Make Tacos Not Walls” adage adorning the inside and awning of its space, Las Cuatro Milpas serves birria in countless variations and styles. They offer birria de res, birria de borrego, and birria de chivo all in tacos (dorado or traditional), burritos, soup, and quesadillas.
For the sake of research, I went for five traditional tacos: two beef, two lamb, and one goat taco. The tacos arrive on a plate, with plenty of chopped radish, caramelized onions, and some cucumber slices, as well as being topped with the usual accoutrements of fresh onions and cilantro.
They provide three salsa choices -- avocado, salsa verde, and a super spicy salsa roja -- to go with a daily-made consommé from the Birria de Res. Its flavor is deeper than spicy, leaving the salsa options to work the spice level you decide you want to endure. Plus, the cilantro and onions that garnish the consommé manage to keep things flavorful for your tacos, whether you’re more of a dipper or spoon sprinkler.
While the Birria de Res tastes more like a traditional Barbacoa or Ropa Vieja, the Birria de Chivo and Birria de Borrego can be a little gamier and chewy, though still savory Everything tastes even better when dipped into the consommé.
The best part about Las Cuatro Milpas’s birria is its variety--there are no wrong options or approaches, but remember the consommé they serve is vital.
O.B.: Original Birria
Across the street from Las Cuatro Milpas, and next door to the Mercado Central on East Lake and Bloomington, Taco Taxi is best known for slinging late night tacos and burritos, though they’ve long offered Birria de Chivo and consommé as a permanent menu item, too. Taco Taxi’s Jalisco-style Birria De Chivo be served up in any style from the menu.
The brothers who run Taco Taxi aim to keep things deliciously simple. The consommé de chivo served alongside the Birria de chivo tacos comes in the equivalent of a 16 ounce coffee cup, with a heaping pile of cilantro and onions stirred right into their consommé.
The consommé served with Taco Taxis Birria de Chivo is spicier than other taquerias in town thanks to a heaping amount of chiles cooked into the broth; the onions and cilantro provide a zest that makes the hot sauce served with the tacos an afterthought. The Birria de Chivo at Taco Taxi is chopped finely, peppered with the occasional huge chunk of Chivo. It’s savory and delicious in taco form, and thanks to all the spice that the consommé carries, it helps make for a more flavorful and vibrant chivo, no matter how you choose to enjoy your birria.
Messed with the Best, Where is de Res?
In St. Paul, right off West University, Homi Restaurant has been open for business for almost 10 years operating as one of the Twin Cities's few jack-of-all-trades Mexican spots. It's no surprise then that they’ve had Birria De Res on the menu since day-one.
Unlike Las Cuatro Milpas and Taco Taxi, Homi serves their Birria de Res soaked in an even balance of chiles and spices; however, the meat is done up more like a barbacoa or ropa vieja, with consistency similar to pulled pork soaked in broth. While the Birria de Res at Homi is not served with consommé, you get a decent amount of the concentrated stock from meat, including bay leaves used in making the birria. The Birria de Res at Homi is flavorful, juicy, and robust, but still moderate on the spice levels.
In addition, Homi’s birria is served with tortillas, rice, and beans on the side, so you can eat this birria with a fork. Otherwise if you’re feeling adventurous, form your own makeshift tacos from those provided tortillas, beans, and rice, plus some of Homi’s fantastic salsa verde that comes with their chips. The Birria de Res at Homi allows you to make the experience itself as deliciously vibrant as you choose. Homi’s menu also has a Lamb Consommé with Barbacoa, which comes with vegetables -- and no sides, since it's labeled under the Caldos (soup) section of Homi’s menu.
Birria is a wondrous and fantastic delicacy in Mexican cuisine. Thankfully, we have options as to where to acquire birria, so make the most of your experience. If gamey meats such as Chivo or Borrego aren’t your style, you can always stay safe and go with chicken or beef---but whatever you do, don’t forget about the consommé! Consommé makes the experience all worth it, and makes for an excellent dip, no matter which way you have your birria, so adventure wisely!
Taqueria y Birrieria Las Cuatro Milpas
1526 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
1511 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
864 University Ave. W., St. Paul