Hot Plate: Five birria tacos you need to eat right now
The city’s trendiest taco right now originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Traditionally made with goat, birria refers to a scrumptious stew infused with chilis, tomatoes, and other spices like cumin, cloves and cinnamon. The tender meat is then plucked out and used to fill corn tortillas that are fried until crispy and served alongside a bowl of the stew’s juices.
Using the stew as a dip, as opposed to sipping it on the side (or on its own), is not exactly traditional; this method of birria consumption is largely a product of social media. But as dippable foods are an ageless source of fun—and all the better when tacos are involved—we say, dunk away.
It’s worth noting that the stew is also believed to be a magical hangover cure, served in some Mexican street stalls as early as 5 a.m. You’ll have to plan ahead to have it on hand in the wee hours here, but nevertheless, here are five Toronto-made birria tacos you need to eat right now.
The one named after four Marias
1 In honour of his grandmothers, mother and wife—all of whom happen to be named Maria—chef Aldo Lopez called his ghost kitchen Tacos Maria Bonita. He marinates beef for 24 hours in a blend of 18 chilis before simmering it for up to eight hours, making for a wildly flavourful stew. There are a few different birria tacos on offer here, all served with consommé: crispy “mulitas” with cheese, fried in Lopez’s special seasoned oil; quesabirrias, with cheese and a flour tortilla; and a regular taco birria, with a soft corn tortilla. You can also opt for a taco kit, available in a half or full kilo of meat with all the fixings. Pre-order before Thursday via their Instagram or Facebook pages for pickup in the west end. $15 for four, $50 for a kit with one kilo of meat. tacosmariabonita_to
The one that’s halal
2 Comal y Canela doesn’t add any water to its birria stew: the juices are exclusively those released by the certified-halal beef shank, vegetables and chilis, which results in an extra concentrated consommé. Delightfully crispy, these tacos are fried in a seasoned oil rendered from beef fat. Since birria tacos take extra time to prepare, they’re not available on delivery apps: you can pick them up at their Jane and Lawrence location, or starting this Saturday, order for delivery directly from their website. $22.15 for five. 1692B Jane St., 647-689-4694, comalycanela.com, @comalycanela
3 Most restaurants that make birria in Toronto use beef, since it’s a more familiar protein to many of their customers, but Tacos El Asador opts for more traditional goat meat. Pressure cooked with a bevy of fresh chilis and cooked once more with onions on the stovetop, the goat is beautifully tender. The broth is finished with chickpeas, and the tacos are served with an assortment of garnishes and sauces, including zingy chile de arbol paste and a choice of a habañero or milder tomatillo sauce. A clever double tortilla keeps the taco intact during the dipping process, and customers can choose to order theirs soft or crispy. $4.50 each, $4.65 for crispy, $17.70 for three tacos and a side of consommé. 689 Bloor St. W., 416-538-9747, tacoselasador.ca, @tacoselasador
The one that only serves birria
4 Birria Catrina, a tiny counter-service restaurant at the back of Kensington Market’s Latin American food court, is the first spot in the city to serve a birria-only menu: there are birria-filled tacos of various kinds on offer, as well as the standalone stew. The menu features options with or without mozzarella cheese (the latter are birria quesadillas), all made with halal beef. Veritable flavour bombs without being overly spicy, these tacos are a well-honed specialty, and the consommé is a gorgeous, vivid shade of red. Pick up or order delivery using DoorDash. $4.83 each, or $21.30+ for combos with consommé and soda. 214 Augusta Ave., 647-532-7104, birriacatrina.com, @lacatrinatoronto
The one at a brewpub
5 When it comes to meat, Woodhouse Brew Pub is all about the long haul: chef Graham Pratt marinates brisket in a blend of chilis, cloves, cinnamon and culantro (a cilantro-like herb) for 48 hours before braising it for another six. Tortillas are dipped in the consommé before frying, filled with a blend of brick, mozzarella and intensely delicious birria, and served with classic adornments: cilantro and onion. It’s a rotating menu item, so keep an eye on their Instagram page for availability—and don’t forget to tack on some of their craft beers. $15. 301 Lansdowne Ave., 416-516-5482, woodhousebrewing.com, @woodhousebrewpub