Where to get birria tacos in St. Louis
Hailing from the state of Jalisco in Mexico and a bona fide institution in its capital Guadalajara, birria tacos are having a moment. Sometimes called “wet tacos,” they are traditionally served with a cup of consommé (for dunking, dipping and even drinking) made primarily with the drippings of the taco’s slow-cooked meat.
Birria is a tradition born humbly as a method for preparing unwanted goat meat, which tends to be tough with a strong taste. The solution: Slather the goat with a chile-based marinade before slow-cooking it for hours, turning the toughest cuts tender. The result is a rich and mouthwatering meal equally suited for service as a daily staple, hangover cure and family-gathering centerpiece.
The women of Tacos La Jefa serve their generations-old family recipe to long lines of diners from their space in Urban Eats’ communal Dutchtown kitchen. Their matriarch, inspiration and jefa (boss), Heriberta Amescua, has been making birria for the better part of a lifetime. She prefers using beef to goat due to the smell.
Birria is part of the family’s roots. “There was always birria for special family occasions, for birthday parties, weddings – family gatherings in big groups,” her daughter Liliana Amezcua said. Their tacos are simple but effective, with tooth-tender beef and a complex, aromatic consommé; both are well worth the wait.
At Lucha Authentic Mexican Food II in Grand Center, owner Catalina Valdez serves an Oaxacan variety of birria in which slow-cooked lamb is wrapped inside agave leaves. The tacos come without the consommé sidecar, instead dripping with the fatty, red juice. “Well-done birria always has to have a good and natural salsa,” Valdez explained. Hers is sharp and fresh with a wisp of smoke to balance the lamb’s richness.
Elsewhere across town, traditional birria doubles as a platform for creative experimentation. At Original J’s Tex-Mex in University City, brisket finds a brothy home inside a wet taco, where liberal use of the consommé highlights the brisket’s depth of flavor. Taco Drip STL’s Dipped Taco, posted up with a portable flattop and a cooler in a Florissant strip mall parking lot, readily sells out of their version, an extra-cheesy taco with a fried-crisp shell. It’s a gooey texture-bomb made for dunking.
You won’t find it listed on their GrubHub menu, but the Taco and Ice Cream Joint’s El Mojado is worth a trip. Melted cheese binds two tortillas that carry a juicy barbacoa filling. The spicy consommé makes for a punchy birria that could bounce any hangover.
“Heriberta always says that birria must be made with a lot of love,” Liliana Amezcua said of her mother. “We need to be happy, we need to make them with good attitude, and when we do we put that good attitude into the meat to share it.” From the traditional to the original, St. Louis is feeling the love.
Tacos La Jefa
3301 Meramec St., St. Louis
Taco Drip STL’s Dipped Taco
11738 W. Florissant Ave., Florissant, 314.885.2911
Lucha Authentic Mexican Food II
522 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.282.0728
Taco and Ice Cream Joint
2738 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314.224.5799
Original J’s Tex-Mex
7359 Forsyth Blvd., University City, 314.202.8335
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