How Birria became America’s hottest taco trend in 2020

In 2005, two Mexican-American teens from Los Angeles met at the fair in Quetzengo, Puebla, during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, a time when countless Mexican-American families returned to their hometowns across Mexico to visit relatives . The pair were partying, meeting girls, and dancing to panda tunes, oblivious to the birrieros’ cash gamble and flashing cash lists at the annual event. But Teddy Vasquez and Omar Gonzalez, along with his brother Oscar, have gone on to change the direction of Mexican street food in America by creating a dish from their small community, the poblano in Tijuana, a sensation north of the border.

Quatzingo is one of the many small towns near Izucar de Matamoros. It’s where people from the surrounding area go to for banking, the only hospital location nearby, and the birthplace of taqueros that would create the Tijuana-style birria de res, the guisado hack that took America by storm.

Birria isn’t popular in Puebla, and certainly not in Quatzingo, but in the 1950s a Takero called Don Guadalupe Zarate moved to Tijuana from Quatzingo and opened a street stall selling birria de chivo, a regional Mexican dish consisting of oven-roasted goats in adobo, Along with the locals’ favorite taco filling, carne asada, and adobada (the regional name of the pastor). He soon turned to beef for a greater yield and profit, as the goats were very skinny. The quatzingo legend says that someone told Zarate to add more liquid so his birria wouldn’t burn, and he turned into the soup-style birria de res known today as Tijuana style: chunks of beef-like, generous portions of beef fat, slowly cooked for hours in adobo With enough water in the stockpot to make a rich stew. “If you mention his name to all the Poblanos in Pereiras, they’ll know who he was — he was the first,” says Takeru Jose Moreno of Beria Landia in New York City.

In 1968, Zarate had saved up enough to take his operation to a smokey queeria row known as Las Ahumaderas, a late-night destination where young Tijuanenses like Chef Javier Plascencia would go to carne asada tacos after school events, and dances at Quinceaneras. the eighties. Birria de res was less fashionable for Tijuanenses during this period. “I didn’t take Beria until I was a teenager,” Placencia says.

Plascencia remembers only a few places that sold them in the early 1980s, when Juan José Romero opened the Tacos Aarón, a small wooden cart in Colonia El Soler that sold beef and goat birria. “Our grandfather is Chilangu [someone from Mexico City] who moved to Guadalajara, where he learned birria de chivo before coming to Tijuana, so I think our recipe is a mix of all those places,” says Abraham Romero of Tacos Aarón.

By the mid-1980s, around the time Teddy Váquez and Omar González were born, birria de res was slowly gaining popularity among Tijuanenses, but was not as popular as the Tijuana styles of carne asada and adobada, also developed by Poblanos. However, the less traditional Mexican state, known for its seafood and innovative pioneer chefs like Plascencia, Benito Molina and Jair Téllez, has been strict about birria de res: all Tijuana stalls serve it the same way. Tacos de birria came with chopped white onions and cilantro topped with a sauce de chile de arbol, or birria en caldo (soup). And it’s best to finish by 1pm to make room for la comida (the big meal of the day), because birria de res is Tijuana’s breakfast.

Angelenos first discovered birria de res while on trips to Tijuana, as they did around 2001, when the menu at Tacos Aarón included tacos de pira, birria en caldo, and quesabirrias (birria and cheese melted in tortillas), along with more than Dozen Taco Varios (the regional name for tacos de Guesado). “My dad says he doesn’t know if we were first, but he doesn’t remember seeing him [quesabirrias] anywhere else, then they were everywhere,” says Abraham Romero. Soon, quesabirria and its more traditional sibling, birria de res, will spread everywhere in Los Angeles, too.

In 2013, Robin Ramirez approached his cousin Oscar Gonzalez and asked him to help him make a fortune selling some of Poblano’s gold to the Mexican community in Los Angeles. Ramirez’s uncle, also from Quetzengo, has been selling birria de res for 40 years in Tijuana’s La Gloria neighborhood, and the two set up a birria stall on the Oscar Gonzalez driveway in South Central. After Ramirez’s tourist visa for selling tacos at the Beria stand without a working visa was revoked, Oscar Gonzalez’s siblings encouraged him to continue. “We thought seeing all the taco stands in Tijuana was so successful, why not sell this to Raza?” says Evan Gonzalez, one of Oscar Gonzalez’s brothers. “At one point I took some tacos for my co-workers at Nordstrom to try the periya, and they loved it, especially the hot sauce. These were white, Asian, African American and Armenian employees who told us they had something they had never tried, and they loved it.”

A few of the brothers had worked at Nordstrom, applying the marketing skills they had learned there to open their first Birrieria Gonzalez truck in 2015. They parked it outside their recently purchased barbershop less than a mile from Gonzalez’s Historic home. South Central Los Angeles. “Oscar designed the logo that many other trucks copied, and I did the packaging, uniforms, and Evan’s Instagram work,” says Omar Gonzalez. “We thought it would be a hit if people ate beria while they were waiting to get their hair cut.”

In Los Angeles at the time, traditional pyrerias were mostly weekend-only, family outings for breakfast, and Mexican-American crowds were accustomed to ordering from large taco menus, but the ambitious siblings had bigger dreams. “We only had one carne, so we decided to make molitas, quesabirias (because people in Los Angeles really love cheese), and other items they have at TJ carne asada,” Omar Gonzalez says. The brothers applied the Nordstrom Principle they cherish as employees of the retail company, customer service and visual presentation to give their customers an experience they want to return to again and again.

While the first Birrieria Gonzalez truck was gaining popularity, a dejected, aimless Vazquez, who had been close to the Gonzalez family since they met at the Quatzengo fair a decade ago, headed to Tijuana for a fresh start. “I was looking for a way out. I just broke up with my girlfriend [parcel] “The business wasn’t going well, and I didn’t want to go back to Mexico, broke—it would be embarrassing,” Vasquez says. He landed a job at the Tijuana Pavilion Birrieria El Paisa and turned out to be a quick learner, taking over the podium while the owner was in Puebla taking care of personal affairs.

By 2016, Vazquez was back in Los Angeles driving for Uber, saving up cooking equipment to make and sell Alperia de Reyes from his car. “I was broke, people looked at me with disdain, but I was disappointed with being positive, optimistic and energetic. Anyone would listen to me. [I’d ask to start] after my [Instagram] page. I started doing events. I’ve done so many things in such a short space of time, says Vasquez, who opened Teddy’s Red Tacos in the fall of 2016, that he’s reinvented himself as a disgusting thought leader for tacos, beaming with Tony Robbins’ energy.

A young Mexican, Latin, and Latin audience has made Briria Gonzalez, Teddy Red Taco, and fellow LA birria Tacos y Birria La Única Instagram stars. Evan Gonzalez claims responsibility for an Instagram post on November 4, 2018, that made the world, or at least Los Angeles, want to dip their tacos into steaming cups of greasy red. But whether or not Ivan Gonzalez’s photo is the first of its kind, in 2018, social media influencers began spotlighting birria de res trucks, along with the mobile birrieros fleet of social media, flooding the internet with images of tacos. Red drowned in cups of carmine cumin. Post after birria-dunking post, Mexican food trucks in Los Angeles have won followers and customers, even as the so-called gourmet food trucks shut down or struggle to gain traction on Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, with birra de res performing once again. Eventually, the popularity of birria itself exploded outside of Los Angeles.

Moreno opened Birria-Landia in New York City in 2019. He researched the dish while working as a chef at Eataly in Los Angeles in 2018, the year birria de res trucks were apparently opening in Los Angeles on a weekly basis. While in Los Angeles, Moreno frequented Teddy’s Red Tacos, Birrieria Gonzalez, and Birrieria Villalobos, crossed the border to Tijuana several times and dined at Tijuana establishments such as Taqueria El Franc, El Poblano, El Rio, El Paisano, and Los Poblanos, all owned by Before the compatriots of Quetzengo, Puebla. That same year, San Francisco’s El Garage began filling their plancha with red tacos that ooze melted cheese while smothered in sizzling consommé, their quesabirria spinoff, and Portland’s Birrieria PDX had long streaks of pyramine, or melting ramen with periya. , a dish created ten years ago by Mexican chef Antonio de Livre and served at his restaurant, Unimo, in Mexico City, which has gained even greater fame in the United States.

Partnerships Manager and Contributor to LA Taco Guillermo “Memo” Torres has been seriously following the rise of birria de res and created Birria-Mania, the birria event, for the taco lifestyle publication. “It really caught our eye in 2018, when [writer] Caesar [Hernadez] wrote him [birria] Proof, that it was a thing, and it just kept evolving and evolving—periya pizza, pyramine, beeria egg rolls, even beria faux,” Torres said.

Of course, all of these Mexican-American variations don’t go well with Tijuana’s Vasquez paisanos.

“I use purple onions, no paper [to wrap the tacos]And I was getting phone calls from Tijuana, saying, “What the fuck, Teddy, you’re ruining tacos, that’s not how we do it.” Cheese and all that stuff—they were mad at me, and everyone was talking to me, telling me don’t be lazy, “You’ve got to put the paper down,” Vasquez says.

And now the LA birria culture is changing the birria in Tijuana. “Dip in the consomme—it’s a pocho and gringo thing,” said Placencia, who has folks at his own Tijuana restaurant, Errizo Baja Fish House and Market, and orders a consumer side of the gravy pot for their birria taco so they can dip their seafood tacos different.

The success of birria on the US side, a dish created by taqueros from Quatzingo and the nearby towns of Pueblane that established their market in Tijuana, backed by numerous stalls that often go unnamed, is a product of the American Dream, spurred by the pioneering children of immigrant children. There’s never been a better time to sell beeria anything, even the traditional goat’s beeraria that’s been in Los Angeles for decades is taking advantage of America’s big red wave — the beeraria nuchistlan in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood has seen more work in the Zacatecas style. birria goats in recent years as interest in birria has increased, especially from non-Hispanics hearing about birria for the first time.

“My friends have nice cars, nice homes, and they have a good life,” Moreno says of the beria sellers he knows from Quatzingo who have set up shop in Tijuana and Los Angeles. “You don’t need to sell carnitas or a bunch of other things, because the beeriya suffices.”

Bill Esparza He is a James Beard Award-winning author and writer Los Angeles Mexicano.

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