Birria Five Ways, an Exploration of Tradition

BY Gabriela Reyes

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Birria has long been a staple in Denver’s culinary landscape, though its popularity has soared in recent years. Once sequestered to a few Mexican restaurants, now the adobo-sauce-based stew can be found in many ways, and at plenty of different eateries around town. 

One could even point a finger at a certain red food truck that used to be parked off Federal Boulevard as the catalyst for this trend. Now a brick-and-mortar, Kiké’s Red Tacos captured the city’s heart with flavorful birria, minus the perpetual line of its food truck days. 

But before birria caused a splash stateside, the dish started in Mexico. Jalisco to be exact, a vibrant city with deep roots in Mexican gastronomy. Not only is it a favorite culinary destination, but also the home of birria. Traditionally made with goat meat, which was brought to Mexico by Spanish conquistadors, birria has evolved to embrace beef and even chicken or lamb. In fact, goat birria is harder to come by in the states, though Kiké’s Red Tacos does offer it. 

Find out how, in Colorado, birria continues to get reinvented, inspiring a wave of innovative menu items offering a fresh perspective on the beloved dish. Explore the nuances of birria with these five establishments, each pushing the boundaries of the traditional execution. 

Birria Ramen at Kiké’s Red Tacos

bowl of ramen with hand pulling noodles
Kike’s Red Tacos offers birria ramen. | Photo by Gaby Reyes

Let’s begin with that aforementioned red food truck, now transformed into a bustling brick-and-mortar establishment. Led by Enrique “Kiké” (pronounced kee-kay) and his son Cesar, it’s been a hot ticket since opening in 2020. The menu offers an array of birria options, ranging from combos to tacos to the recently trending birria ramen. What truly elevates this spot is the consumé, serving as the foundation for a deeply comforting and satisfying broth. The steaming bowl is enhanced with noodles, cheese, cilantro, and radish, the perfect combo of two food-focused cultures. 1200 W. 38th Ave, Denver, kikesredtacos.com

Birria Burger at Illegal Burger

hand holding burger with dipping sauce
The birria burger at Illegal Burger slaps. | Photo by Gaby Reyes

When downtown or in Evergreen and craving a burger experience with a hint of rebellion, Illegal Burger leads the coup. With the Kingpin Birria burger, brace yourself for a taste that’s not just daring, but downright delinquent. In the delectable dish, birria joins the beef patty, pepper jack cheese, onions, cilantro, jalapeño aioli, and consomé. It’s a flavor explosion so good, it’s criminal. And if that’s not enough to satisfy your outlaw appetite, go ahead and pair a burger with a side of birria fries. It’s a temptation you won’t regret giving in to. 1512 Larimer St.,  Denver, illegalburger.com

Botanas at Pancho’s Birria y Más

This Lakewood restaurant brings the vibrant spirit of Mexican street vendors and botanas, or snack shops, to adventurous diners. Botanas, a beloved staple in Mexico, have captured the stateside taste buds with items such as Takis and beyond. Picture bags of chips adorned with a wild array of toppings, from meats to chili to lime, in order to create a flavor fiesta. Pancho’s takes this tradition to new heights with a range of base options. However, the birria Cheetos is where it’s at. Grab a fork and dive in to indulge in this meaty snack. 6401 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood, no website

Birrieria Y Taqueria Los Tecos

checkered paper with chessy mexican pizza
The birria pizza at Birrieria Y Taqueria Los Tecos is a cheesy delight. | Photo by Linnea Covington

In 2015 this small shop opened near Midtown, bringing Michoacan cuisine and birrieria to the neighborhood. While diners can enjoy birria in plenty of traditional ways, think tacos and nachos, innovation is never far behind. The owners continuously embrace new birria trends including the latest sensation, birria pizza. Each pie features a tortilla crust, birria meat in the center, and melty browned cheese on top. The “pizza” proves small and is easy to share as an appetizer or for a solo meal. 7353 N. Pecos St,, Denver, lostecos.com

La Patrona Authentic Mexican Restaurant

In Northglenn, find the dish that sparked this article in the first place, ignited during a late-night scroll session when birria egg rolls lit up the screen. The dish proves simple, it’s birria meat wrapped in an eggroll skin and deep fried. Dip it in the velvety consomé and enjoy another brilliant blending of cuisines. The birria egg rolls come three to an order, so stay for a full meal and friendly atmosphere. 11932 Washington St., Northglenn, no website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gabriela Reyes

Gaby has been part of the Denver/Boulder food scene since 2015 when she moved to Colorado. While gradually losing her ability to eat due to six years of misdiagnosed food allergies, she became fascinated with the culinary scene. Gaby, aka The Restaurant Encyclopedia, has been DiningOut’s restaurant coordinator for food festivals since 2017 and joined the editorial team in 2022.

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