Whether you live local or are just passing through, you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid the fact that, like most of Texas, tacos form a huge part of Austin cuisine. Every restaurant and taco truck has its own personality, and, as with most things in life, it can take a bit of time and experimentation to find the ones that suit you best.
When birria tacos first arrived onto the Austin taco scene around 2018-19, they caused queues around the block wherever you were lucky enough to find them, although they are now available all over the city, from the most humble food truck to high-end restaurants. A native dish of Jalisco, Mexico, Austin acquired tacos the way we’ve acquired many other trends, by way of California. Birria, a Spanish word meaning ‘bits and pieces’ or ‘nothing of value’, is a traditional soup or stew made from meat, chili peppers, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, and thyme and other herbs and spices. Most birria makers like to keep their mixture, which can contain up to 15 ingredients, secret, making each birria experience unique.
In his excellent deep-dive into birria history, Trey Gutierrez breaks down the complex history of how the American birria tacos de res (usually shortened to birria) has evolved from its Mexican counterpart, absorbing American characteristics along its travels, becoming bigger, redder, meatier, cheesier. Most significantly, a change from traditional goat or lamb to good ol Texan brisket has signified a full birria localization, but some spots around town still serve birria in its original form, or offer a choice of meats.
Ordering birria can be intimidating, especially for non-Spanish-speakers, with many different incarnations to choose from. However, birria is far too tasty to let your lack of language skills be a deterrent, so don’t panic if you don’t know your mulitas from your quesobirrias, here’s a quick cheat sheet, and don’t be afraid to use your phone if you need to.
- Birria de res – this is the slow cooked meat stew itself, in Texas you can find it made with brisket, goat (chiva), lamb (cordero) or barbacoa (barbecued beef)
- Consomme – this is the juice from the cooked meat that is served either as a soup with some of the meat added back in or as a dipping sauce for your birria tacos or quesadillas – highly recommended
- Birria taco – a crispy taco with birria filling, no cheese
- Mulitas – two corn tortillas cooked with birria inside and cheese added
- Quesobirria – a birria taco with cheese added
- Birria quesadilla – a quesadilla with birria filling and cheese
You may also find new and interesting variations on birria depending on where you go – some places are now serving everything from birria burgers to birria ramen – it’s a trend that just keeps growing!
Here are five great spots to get your birria on, and a list of other places around town where you can find it:
More than worth the drive north of the city, Isma’s has already made a strong name for itself as the hottest new birria truck around. With regular slots at The Good Lot in Leander, Hedgehog Brewing in Cedar Park and Barking Armadillo Brewing in Georgetown among other venues, Isma’s rich, fatty beef broth and crispy tacos filled with juicy spiced meat are supremely moreish. At just $13.50 for a plate including three tacos, consommé, rice, beans and cheese you absolutely cannot go wrong. Check out their Instagram page to find their location and opening hours. BYOB.
This excellent South Congress food truck does everything well, and is so popular they now have a secod venue in Cedar Creek (1522 hwy 21 cedar creek 78612). Their patience with my appalling Spanish is nothing short of saintly, and their birria is hearty and satisfying. You can choose from quesobirria, a birria taco plate and birria quesadilla, but whichever you go to be sure to get consommé on the side.
5604 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78745, 8am-10pm, BYOB.
Want to eat birria in a restaurant and not break the bank? El Borrego de Oro is the place to come. Not only are they one of the few places to serve deliciously flavoursome lamb birria, their house special birria plate is just $11, but if you want birria tacos and/or quesobirria you need to specify when you order – don’t be afraid to go off menu! They also have a reasonably priced range of cocktails and Mexican beer as well as daily specials.
3900 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704, 7am-9pm.
One of Austin’s original spots for brisket birria, La Tunita are now so well-established they have their own t-shirts. Mulitas and quesotacos are the order of the day, and if you don’t fancy beef they have Al Pastor (barbecue pork) versions of several dishes. Consommé must be ordered separately, and there’s even options for birria pizza and birria grilled cheese sandwich if that’s your bag. The only downside? You’d better get there early – food sells out fast and even if not they are closed by 6pm. The price of fame!
2400 Burleson Rd, Austin, TX 78741, 11am-6pm Tues-Sat. BYOB.
Birria tacos til 12am is a hella yes from me, and Tacos El Huache is a crackin late night spot where you can BYOB and dine to the sound of Mexican music until the wee hours. Their succulent goat-meat three-birria-taco plate comes with consommé and is a snip of a midnight snack at just $12. Occasionally you may find it sold out so if your linguistic skills are up to it call first to avoid disappointment.
4500 E William Cannon Dr, Austin, TX 78744, 8am-12am Tues-Sat, 6pm-12am Sun, closed Mon. BYOB.
Other to try birria:
- Hay Elotes
- Bomb Tacos
- Tejas Birria
- Dizfruta ATX
- Gabriela’s Downtown
- Taquito Aviles
- Taqueria Lucerito
- Jamie’s Barbecue & Mini Tacos
- Pepe’s Tacos