Bay Area folk are always in search of the perfect taco: al pastor, crispy fish, an expertly grilled asada, and quesabirria - the cheesy, crunchy beef tacos from Tijuana. In the last few years, more versions of it have been popping up around the Bay, but none inspired longer lines than El Garage. The year-old quesabirria pop-up, whose reddish tacos probably earned a spot on your Instagram feed, recently opened their first brick-and-mortar location in Richmond.
But first, let’s talk about birria. Birria is a Mexican stew traditionally made with lamb. It has roots in Jalisco, and is usually served at big occasions, like weddings and baptisms. Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when taqueros in Tijuana started making quesabirria - with beef, melted cheese, and a tortilla crisped on the plancha - the tacos made their way north to Los Angeles, and eventually, the Bay. (If you’re interested in quesabirria’s history, check out this piece.)
So, back to El Garage. This pop-up was launched by the Montano family in their garage in early 2019. Word quickly spread, social media stardom followed - and the tacos began to regularly sell out. People came for the lean, tender beef, the spicy, meaty consomé, and the satisfying crunch in every bite. If you missed El Garage in its pop-up days, or have never tried quesabirria, here’s how to change that as soon as possible.
How do I get this birria?
You won’t be able to walk-up and place your order in person at the new brick-and-mortar. Instead, to limit crowds, El Garage is asking everyone to pre-order online. You can do so starting on Wednesday for pick-up on Friday through Sunday (for now). If no time slots are available, it means all the delicious crispy tacos are sold out. In other words, better luck next week.
OK, great. So what should I order?
This may seem like an obvious answer, but let’s quickly explore our options: you can get a three-pack of birria tacos with cheese, or without. If you’re having trouble deciding, please refer to the visual aids below.
Tender, juicy beef on a crispy tortilla that’s been dipped in consomé, and topped with cilantro and onions.
Everything above, plus melted mozzarella cheese that’s slightly crispy around the edges of the taco. Seriously, is this even a contest?
Oh, and one more ordering option: with or without pickled habanero. The chile is spicy, sweet, tangy, and a nice way to break up the potential meat-and-cheese overload.
How much should I order?
At least one order of tacos per person. As for the consomé, if you’re treating your quesabirria like a french dip sandwich, you could get away with one order for two people - but we don’t recommend it. You’re going to want the warm, rich broth all to yourself. Plus, there’s a good amount of beef at the bottom of the cup to spoon out and enjoy after.
How do I pick my order up?
Pick-up slots are 12-7pm Friday, and 10am-7pm Saturday and Sunday. Arrive in your finest sweats, state your name, and, please, be kind and patient.
I don’t live near Richmond. Where else can I get quesabirria?
El Garage’s quesabirria are worth the trip, even if you’re not based in the East Bay. But if you’re not able to get there, here are a few more birria recommendations: We’re huge fans of the red tacos from La Santa Torta truck, which you can usually find parked outside of the Richmond Costco, or on Broadway in Jack London. La Grana Fish recently debuted a new outdoor seating area next to the Aloha Club in Fruitvale - which means you can enjoy quesabirria al fresco. There’s also Los Originales, a pop-up in Antioch and Concord. And over in the Mission, Tacos El Patron’s extra-meaty version is pretty good, too.