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