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Food and Drink

Quesabirria

I love tacos. For anyone who follows me on the gram, this isn’t news. I seriously have a taco problem.

Is it a problem? I mean, I’m not a cardiologist. (Nor am I an Olympic athlete.)

Problems are just a matter of opinion, right?

When it comes to tacos I kind of like them all. Fish tacos, adobada, carne asada, carnitas, lengua, cabeza, chivo, pollo… I’ve even had rabbit tacos– they were pretty good! I rarely find a taco I don’t like. I even like the crunchy tacos with ground beef we eat for dinner at home sometimes. (Don’t tell anyone, I’ll lose street cred.)

If you like tacos and are looking for a private binge moment, I highly recommend Taco Chronicles streaming on Netflix. It’s the closest to unadulterated food porn we’ve had since the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain.

“What’s your favorite taco spot, Adam?”

That’s an unfair question as tacos are a situational thing. The best taco in the world is the one you are enjoying right now with your friends.

But let me offer some clues for what I’m looking for in a taco experience… I’m looking for a hole in the wall or a food cart with steam & smoke pouring down the street and a pile of addicts standing around holding a coke in one hand and a plastic plate in the other.

Good tacos don’t cost $10 or $14. It’s gotta be cheap. They certainly are gourmet good tacos aren’t made by a chef in a kitchen, the best ones are made in front of you to your specifications.

So don’t get hung up on fancy tacos, that ain’t it. And you don’t have to be in Mexico to get good tacos. I’ll freely admit I’ve had good tacos in a number of countries, including random places throughout the United States.

The best taco I’ve tasted involved not just the intense pleasure of enjoying the taco, it’s all inclusive of the entire experience: What I’m hungry for? What time of day it is? Who I am with? Who is cooking? Who is cutting the meat? Who is serving? What about the ingredients? The ingredients they have that day have to be great. And the sides– Good Lord the sides have to be right, that’s make or break because sometimes the meat works just right with the sides, bringing in a new flavor you’ve never tried. The time of day is important. And even how may people are standing there eating, too.

The truth is you have an amazing taco experience in real time. One day your mind is blown by a visit to a taco stand and then you spend months trying to replicate the experience there and elsewhere.

There’s something ephemeral about the taco experience, which makes it impossible to definitely say, “That’s my always and go-to spot.”

Behold! Quesabirria

Quesabirria, a member of the royal court of tacos.

That said, let me introduce you to something you either know about or don’t. Quesabirria.

What is it? In short, it’s a quesadilla that they’ve open up and dropped in the contents of a barria taco, then cooked it all together into crispy, juicy perfection. Sometimes it’s delivered looking like a traditional taco and other times it’s delivered like you see in the photo above, flatter and thicker because it just got so full it could no longer be served like a traditional taco.

Wait. Birria? What’s that? Birria is a spiced, stewed meat– in Baja it’s usually beef (Birria de res) but if you’ve been a good boy you might find goat. (Birria de chivo) Birria, the style of cooking itself is from the Mexican state of Jalisco but has become popular throughout Mexico. It’s most often served for a late breakfast or early lunch, most birria stands close about 2 pm.

Since it’s stewed meat, the meat is always very tender and full of flavor. You squeeze a little lime, add some pickled red onions, and you’ve got yourself a religious experience. Don’t forget the side of consomm√©… the broth… it’s usually offered as a free side item in a small cup. Some people eat birria as a soup served in the consomm√©. At most stands you’ll see it served in a large styrophone cup topped with fresh onions and lime. Divine. Truly food of the gods.

But… Is it good for you? No, it’s a taco wrapped in cheese and cooked in lard… it’ll kill you. Yes!

Like all good tacos, the calories don’t count because it’s more than food. It is medicine for the soul.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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