What’s el rey de tacos? Based on the steady upward trend of Coloradans Googling birria tacos since early 2020, we’re crowning the saucy, meaty, cheesy, dippable tacos as the king of comfort food. (Is it a coincidence birria’s rise began approximately the same time a far less enticing word—COVID—entered the lexicon? We think not.)
Birria is traditionally a slow-cooked goat stew with red chiles hailing from Jalisco, Mexico, though in recent years quesabirria—slow-stewed beef with melted or crispy cheese in a fried taco designed to be dunked in rich, steaming consomé—has become popular. (They’re also known as red tacos thanks to the color imparted from the broth.)
There are plenty of places in the Denver-metro area serving up the specialty. We talked to Orlando Benavidez, chef-owner of Bits & Pieces con Cerveza food truck, for his picks. Benavidez is a bit contrary when it comes to his own cooking (“I try to do the opposite of what people are doing,” he says) so his birria is made from smoked lamb and Hatch green chile consomé. But his favorite places for birria will appeal to purists and mavericks alike.
His biggest advice for seeking out the most luscious birria—or tacos in general? “I always try to go to hole in the walls or to food trucks. That’s where the best food is.”
“I tried La Diabla. It was me another chef and my daughter and we literally got the whole menu. The waitress was like, ‘Are you sure?’ The birria was really good. I like the way [chef-owner Jose Avila] did it with the bone marrow. It’s just a piece of bone on the plate and you scoop the marrow out and put it on the taco. One of the other tacos was beef cheek, which I really like because I do beef cheek on my truck.”
“At Kiké’s Red Tacos they do the tortillas perfectly. It works so well with the consomé.”
“You know who else has a good one is Los Dos Portillos. It won maybe two or three years ago at Top Taco, but I had to go to the restaurant for the birria taco. At a competition like that you don’t get the full effect.”
“One of the place I like a lot is La Baja Fish Tacos & Grill. They have a quesabirria…I love it. It was one of the first ones I had when I came into the food truck scene. I was blown away by it. They were amazing: that crust of cheese, the rich meat. The consomé I like because of the spice. Some consomés don’t have a lot of spice.”
“Siete Salsas (1350 South Sheridan Boulevard, Denver) has a good birria, too.”
“Another place is La Unica food truck. It’s a yellow trailer and they’re delicious. They’re super rich and juicy and you dunk them into the consomé with that fat on top…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!” (ED: Plan ahead! La Unica is only open weekends.)
And because DiningOut staff can’t help but shout out one of our own favorite birria joints, here’s our pick: Headed to the mountains but got a hankering for birria? Get off of I-70 at exit 205 and drive straight to La Perla in north Silverthorne. The mercado and carniceria is also a taqueria—a well known secret that brings in fans from all over Summit County. Order at the back counter, find a table, and get ready to dig into the liquid gold and stewed beef that comes packed inside 32-ounce Styrofoam containers. Warm tortillas wrapped in parchment, limes, dried oregano, and chipotles in adobo come on the side.
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