With roots in Tijuana and Jalisco, the traditional slow-roasted birria de res dish has been reimagined into quesabirria tacos. These tacos manage to be all things all at once: crispy, juicy, and cheesy. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the consomé made from the stewed meat that becomes a dip for the cheesy tacos. Whether it’s the cheesiness or the crunchiness that’s calling you, check out this list of my nine favorite spots for quesabirria tacos in the city.
After a fire closed their Pilsen restaurant last summer, Jarabe is now operating out of Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall in Tri-Taylor. But you’ll still find wine and cream-colored heirloom corn lining the counter, which is used to make masa for their hand-pressed tortillas. The quesabirria tacos are rich, and their escabeche adds a brightly flavored crunch. Do yourself a favor and grab a few of their cochinita pibil tacos and a cucumber agua fresca while you’re here, too. You’ll be happy you did.
They reel you right in at Birrieria Zaragoza with the sight of a carving station and tortillas being pressed to order when you walk in the door. This Archer Heights restaurant specializes in goat birria served up Jalisco-style, an oven-based steaming method that creates tender meat that basically melts in your mouth. Grab a single quesabirria taco for $5, or a combo with two tacos and a side of brothy consomé and pickled vegetables for $13.50.
Tata’s Tacos in Portage Park describes their au-jus consommé as “down and dirty,” and I’m not ashamed to admit that’s how I looked after I finished eating them. Tata’s sears their tortillas in the consommé, which gives the tacos an extra flavor boost. Order the “Tijuana” - three shredded birria tacos for $16. In addition to the cheesy birria, they offer at least a dozen types of tacos, including The Tux, a seared scallop and ribeye taco, and the Jibarito which is served on a plantain tortilla.
A lively restaurant in Gage Park, I knew it was a good sign when I smelled white onions being grilled as soon as I walked in. Those onions gave El Asador’s quesabirria tacos the crunch that I want to go with a side of rich consomé. Their beef quesabirria is a new offering and can be ordered at both their 47th and 51st location. You can get the three or four taco quesabirria dinner - it comes with rice and beans, along with a side of cilantro, onion, and the consomé. I’m still mad I didn’t order the four taco dinner. Until next time.
New to River North and the birria scene in Chicago, Tiny Taqueria is operating out of the Green Door Tavern. And they’re serving quesabirria that’s heavy on flavor, with tacos that balance the cheesiness and crispiness. Plus, they’re offering 25% off your first online order with a $20 minimum.
The Tamale Guy has birria down to a science. Theirs melds oxtail, beef cheek, and chuck roast, which creates a tenderly textured taco. I talked with chef and co-owner Pierre Vega, and he explained that those cuts were his favorite parts “for braising purposes.” And after eating here, I totally see why. The char on both the birria and the chihuahua cheese is crispy, and consider yourself lucky if you can get one before they run out.
Some are new to this, but Birrieria Ocotlan is true to this. They’ve been serving birria (and now quesabirria tacos) since 1978. It’s a family recipe, and they like to keep things traditional with choices including beef and goat tacos. A “Combo Quesatacos″ includes three quesabirria tacos, beans, rice, a pop (yes, pop, not soda), and of course, a side of consomé.
Tacotlan in Hermosa really does birria, and they have a whole separate menu to prove it. That menu includes birria ramen, and even bizza (birria pizza), but I only had eyes for the quesabirria. Co-owner Jessica Perjes (and her father and co-owner Everado Macias) told me that Tacotlan is one of the first restaurants to introduce quesabirria to Chicago, and the proof is in the delicious taco. Theirs oozes chihuahua cheese, and if the tacos weren’t great enough, the side of consomé could be a dish by itself. You can get individual tacos for $4.25, or an order of three for $13.50. I’ll be back for the ramen. And the bizza.
With a cilantro and onion-loaded au jus that tastes good enough to drink, it’s no wonder Birrieria El Texcal is a favorite in Albany Park. Birria options include two goat or lamb quesabirrias on either corn or flour tortillas, and each comes with rice and beans. The birria is buttery from hours of slow roasting, and these hefty tacos are full of meat. Stop by, or call in your order early - they open at 10am.