First, what are quesabirria tacos?
Quesabirria tacos—the distinctly red-colored, cheesy, braised beef tacos served with the juices from the braising process (consommé)—are popping up everywhere. From the Bay Area to Portland, the trend doesn't seem to be slowing down. And now, it's also made its way to the DC area. You'll see quesabirria tacos, often just called "birria tacos," in social media captions, with increasing frequency on the feeds of food bloggers throughout the DMV region.
Local businesses serving this newly popular dish have also seen a surge in business. Jimmy Longoria, owner of Baltimore County-based, Mexican On The Run, an LA-inspired taco truck whose menu draws on the foods from Longoria's childhood, says that his family-run business has had, "a hard time keeping up with the demand for birria." Longoria emphasizes that social media has driven this recent surge, saying, "sometimes customers don't even know what it's called, they're just showing me photos on their phones."
So what are quesabirria tacos? Where can you get them in the DMV? And if you ask for "birria tacos" at a local restaurant, will you get what you may be expecting based on social media?
While the trend may be new, birria is not. "Birria is a traditional, slow-cooked goat stew originating from the Mexican state of Jalisco." Different preparations of birria, utilizing braised goat as well as beef, have long been available in various parts of the United States such as Portland or Los Angeles. It's difficult to trace the exact progression of more traditional birria into the popular, cheesy tacos seen on social media today. However, it appears that the trend began in Northern Mexico and then spread to California as taquerias began to serve birria, primarily beef birria or birria de res, in new ways.
Geraldine Mendoza, Director of Operations and partner at the newly opened Taqueria Xochi on U Street, describes how "birria was traditionally served as a soup and was said to be good as a hangover cure. Then over time, in Jalisco and other Nothern Mexican cities close to the border, they began serving birria taco-style with cheese. It spread from there."
The resulting trend has spread throughout the United States, and is almost a hybrid between a quesadilla and a taco. Commonly called quesabirria for its primary ingredients, cheese or queso, and birria, the idealized dish seen on social media feeds features tortillas dipped in consommé from the beef braising process that are then griddled until crispy, layered with melted cheese, topped with braised beef, and served with a dish of additional consommé for dipping.
Though the names "quesabirria" and "birria tacos" are often used interchangeably by customers and in social media captions, they do not necessarily have the same meaning. While "quesabirria tacos" is commonly used to describe the cheesy birria tacos associated with the current trend, "birria" is a more general term used in a variety of ways. Some local restaurants use "birria" to denote slow-cooked or braised beef specifically, and their "birria tacos" do not contain cheese. Others use it to describe a style of taco that does have cheese and features various kinds of braised meats, beef being one of multiple options. In addition, not all birria tacos come with a side of consommé. It may be available for an additional cost, or may not be on the menu at all.
Keep those varied ways in which birria is prepared and served in mind when ordering. Yelp reviews show that some area businesses have received poor ratings for serving "birria tacos" that do not have
cheese, for example, a style of preparation that predates the current trend. Negative reviews of this type demonstrate how social media and food trends have reshaped some diners' expectations of some foods with long histories, like birria.
For those looking to try the quesabirria tacos as seen on social media, the below restaurants are serving them up along with consommé, as well as a variety of other dishes.
Where To Get Quesabirria In DC, MD, And VA
In The District
Taqueria Xochi, 924 U St NW, Washington, DC
Quesabirria tacos are the top-selling menu item at Taqueria Xochi. Their birria utilizes chef and owner Teresa Padilla's family recipe and each order of quesabirria tacos come with a side of consommé included. Taqueria Xochi also has lamb quesabirria tacos available. Disclosure: I've previously received free food from Taqueria Xochi and hosted a giveaway for Taqueria Xochi on Instagram.
Rebel Taco, 1214 U St NW, Washington, DC
Listed as "Birria De Rez," Rebel Taco in DC offers two quesabirria tacos per order complete with braised beef, Mexican cheese, onion, and cilantro, and served with beef consommé for dipping.
Rita's Tacos Pop-Up at Roy Boys, 2108 8th St. NW, Washington DC
The Rita's Tacos pop-up menu is available at Roy Boys and features "Birria Taco" and a "Birria Quesadilla" made with beef, Pepper Jack cheese, onions, and cilantro, as well as consommé.
La Eloteria DMV, Home-based business in Hyattsville, Maryland
Lupe Gamez, co-owner of La Eloteria, "a Latinx-owned pop-up shop" in Hyattsville, characterizes their home-based business as a "birreria," which features "different types of dishes made with birria meat." The menu includes birria quesadillas and pupusas, as well as quesabirria tacos. Sides of consommé are available at an additional charge. Gamez recommends the birria pupusa in addition to the bestselling quesabirria tacos. She says, "the mix with the tomato broth and the pickled cabbage is an innovative experience, the flavors just go together."
Little Miner Taco, Multiple locations including a food truck
Little Miner Taco has locations in Brentwood and North Bethesda, as well as a roaming food truck. All locations serve variations of "quesotacos" featuring cheese and a broth for dipping. Find the location of the food truck here.
Mexican On The Run, Baltimore County
Mexican On The Run, a Baltimore County-based food truck that is commonly found in Towson during the fall and winter seasons, serves “Birria Queso Tacos (L.A. Style) with a side of Consume” featuring corn tortillas, melted cheese, fresh cilantro, and diced onions with your choice of meat. Birria, their locally-sourced braised beef, is one of the multiple meats that you can select. Consommé is available separately. And if you're looking to try something in addition to quesabirria tacos, owner Jimmy Longoria who runs the business with his mother and brother says that his personal favorite are the mulitas, which he describes as a "taco sandwich" not available on many menus in the area. Stay up to date with Mexican On The Run's location via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Weekly schedules are usually posted on Monday afternoons and online orders are accepted.
El Papi Street Tacos, 5904 Allentown Way, Camp Springs, MD
Chef and owner Rudy Zamora-Herrera of El Papi Street Tacos in Camp Springs, describes himself as a "birria master." In addition to other menu items with birria, El Papi Street Tacos serves "queso-birria tacos" and offers sides of consommé for an additional charge. Note that "birria tacos" here are a separate menu item that does not feature cheese. El Papi Street Tacos does not allow substitutions.
Tacos El Pariente, 20220 Frederick Rd, Germantown, MD
Tacos El Pariente, a food truck in Germantown serves "Birria De Res Con Consome", a trio of quesabirria tacos with a side of broth for dipping, as well as a birria combo meal. Note that, based on social media posts, Tacos El Pariente regularly sells out of its birria.
Cielo Rojo, 7056 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, MD
Cielo Rojo in Takoma Park serves "Birria de Rez", grass-fed, sustainable beef consommé with a trio of mini quesadillas stuffed with braised short ribs and served with guacamole, onion, radishes, and cilantro.
Cocina Luchadoras, 253 S Broadway St Baltimore, MD
This Baltimore spot has introduced a host of birria dishes including tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. All come with consommé. Social media posts show that they have been selling out, pre-orders are available online.
La Tingeria, 601 S Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA
Taco Rock, 1501 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
In addition to a wide variety of other tacos, Taco Rock offers "Birria Ramen" made from braised beef (no cheese) and birria tacos and a "birria crunchy supreme wrap" that come with melted cheese and consommé.
Locals Tacos and Tequila, Multiple VA Locations
Locals Tacos and Tequila, which has multiple locations in Virginia, offers a “Locals Signature Taco - Birria” that features slow-cooked shredded short rib, onions, cilantro, and Oaxaca cheese, served with a side of beef consommé.
Nono's Taqueria, 3207 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA
Nono's is a home-based business that specializes in birria-based dishes, including quesabirria tacos with cheese and consommé. Find menu and ordering information on their Instagram.
Taqueria Picoso, 1472 N Beauregard St, Alexandria, VA
Taqueria Picoso in Alexandria offers “Birria” on their menu, which comes with two quesabirria tacos served with a side of consommé.
Did I miss a business offering quesabirria tacos? Drop a comment below and let me know so that I can add them!
NOTE: This post may include some home-based businesses, which I note clearly whenever I am aware of it. Their operations may or may not comply with local cottage food business laws. For many marginalized communities, home-based food businesses are a common avenue for economic advancement and growth. As such, they are an essential part of the local foodscape. However, any action you take based on the information shared here is strictly at your own risk, and none of the authors, administrators, or any employees or contractors for Feed The Malik can be held responsible for any adverse reactions or outcomes.