What’s on the takeout menu at Birria Balam, a new downtown pop-up for birria tacos

What’s on the takeout menu at Birria Balam, a new downtown pop-up for birria tacos

More New Takeout

Name: Birria Balam
Contact: 147 Spadina Ave., birriabalam.com, @birriabalam
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: Kate Chomyshyn, Julio Guajardo, Matty Matheson, Gary Quinto and Dave Thorek
Chefs: Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo (El Rey, Rosalinda, Quetzal)
Outdoor seating: None
COVID-19 safety measures: Strict mask policy for staff and patrons, frequent sanitization, maximum three patrons inside at a time
Accessible: Fully accessible entrance

The food

Two types of birria taco—fried quesabirria and soft tacos, known here as “taco suave”—are on offer at Birria Balam, a pop-up now up and running in advance of a standalone restaurant set to open later this year. Chefs Chomyshyn and Guajardo’s take on the city’s trendiest taco centres on braised beef—a mix of chuck and brisket, for fat and flavour—stewed in a heady mix of spices, including three kinds of chilies and Mexican cinnamon. The word “birria” refers to the stew itself, which originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Here, the meat is plucked out and stuffed inside tortillas from the Toronto’s own Maizal (a zero-waste tortilleria) and served alongside its braising liquid for dipping. This is the way it’s often served outside Mexico; traditionally, the stew would be sipped on its own.

The crunchy quesabirria tacos are filled with mozzarella, dipped in fat from the braising liquid (consomé) and fried to perfection; the tacos suave are pillowy soft and cheese-free. Both varieties are served in combo form: you get three tacos, two ounces each of salsas roja and verde, onions and cilantro, and your choice of drink. There’s an option to add some spicy salsa macha (made with peanuts and sesame) for an extra two bucks. Matty’s hot tip: for an extra kick, add a bit of that salsa macha to your consomé before dipping.

Guajardo and Chomyshyn, hard at work
The star of this show is beef—a combination of chuck and brisket—braised for almost five hours, then stewed in chilies, Mexican cinnamon, and other spices.


Quesabirria tacos are dipped in fat from the braising liquid, topped with mozzarella cheese and grilled a la plancha until crispy.
A close-up of the quesabirria. Note the melty mozzarella and blushing tortilla, tinted orange from its dip in birria fat.
Each combo ($24 for the quesabirria, and $21 for taco suave) comes with three tacos, eight ounces of consomé, onions and cilantro, salsas roja and verde, and your choice of drink. Both kinds of taco are pictured here—quesabirria at the top left—with the optional salsa macha ($2).
The quesabirria tacos here are pictured with all the fixings, but the combos come with onions, cilantro and salsas on the side so you can customize to your heart’s content.
Crispy tacos have an undeniable appeal, but the soft tacos suave offers its own delights—for one thing, you get to experience the unadulterated flavours of Maizal’s incredible tortillas. (The zero-waste tortilleria farms all its own corn in Ontario).
Birria stew, which originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, is traditionally sipped on its own—dipping is largely a product of social media. That doesn’t make it any less delicious, of course.
Like most makers of birria, Birria Balam keeps its signature spice mix under lock and key—but there are at least three types of chilies and Mexican cinnamon in that fire-engine-red elixir.
The drinks

Every combo comes with a non-boozy beverage of choice: Mexican Coke (made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup), a bottle of Jarritos (guava, mandarin, tamarind) or flat or sparkling water. Micheladas, margaritas and other classic Mexican drinks will be on offer at the restaurant on Dundas, along with an expanded food menu.

The space

You can find the takeout window inside a small foyer decorated with a serious cactus collection. They take a small number of walk-up orders, but you’re much better off reserving your tacos in advance through their website.

Chefs Guajardo and Chomyshyn—partners in business and in life—at their taco takeout window.