Like most Tampa residents, Stephanie Swanz first met Quesabirria Tacos on Instagram.
“I kept seeing these delicious tacos online and had to try them,” says Swanz, who owns Empamamas and the recently opened Muchachas at Armature Works. At that time, she was developing the taco menu for muchachas, and her team went into the test kitchen. “A crispy tortilla filled with birria, cheese, onions and coriander, squeezed together and then dipped in a broth. … When I saw her, I knew I needed her, stat. “
These crispy, cheesy, meaty, filled tacos have taken foodie social media by storm. Birria is a traditional Mexican dish of ground meat in a stew or broth made from the meat’s own fat. It’s usually made with goat, but beef is the next most popular choice.
Marlly Sanchez grew up in her home state of California with birria made with goats. When she and her husband Chris Garcia opened their permanently parked Tacos las Californias food truck last July, Birria Tacos were a must-have on the menu. Tacos las Californias was the first Tampa restaurant to serve this type of taco (which they make with Angus beef), and Sanchez was nervous about their reception. “I wasn’t really sure how it would work for us. I was a little scared, ”she says. “But I knew we had a good recipe for it, so we had to do it.”
The Birria – or Quesabirria – Taco is almost closer to a quesadilla than a traditional taco thanks to its folded, toasted edges and melting cheese. For Tacos las Californias, preparation begins the night before, when Sanchez adjusts the Angus beef so that it cooks slowly overnight. By the time it’s ready in the morning, the juicy meat slides effortlessly off the bone. The tortillas are dipped in the broth made by the cooking Angus, then roasted on the grill and topped with mozzarella, onions, coriander and beef. The taco is then folded over so that both sides are extra crispy.
But maybe the star of the show is the broth – the broth made from roast beef, spices, and little else. The cash shot consists of a crushed pressed tortilla filled with ground beef and processed cheese, which is lovingly dipped into a bowl of this broth to create the perfect salty, hearty and slightly spicy bite.
There are variations of the formula in the Mexican restaurants in Tampa. For example, in West Tampa, Catrinas decided on a chuck mix after testing short ribs and finding them, believe it or not, too tender. The meatiness is what defines the Birria Tacos, explains co-owner Karol Ortiz, and the guests have told her that they have become a highlight of a particularly busy year.
“Quesabirria tacos with consommé could be one of the best things my customers discovered in an otherwise difficult year,” she says.
2020 was an unforgiving year most people would soon rather forget, and quesabirria tacos were the opposite of that. warm and soothing, a memory to share. It was word of mouth that helped Quesabirria Tacos and Tacos las Californias take off. In the early days, Sanchez says, she’d see customers try the tacos and immediately call a friend to try them too. Food bloggers and social media influencers like beauty vlogger Jaclyn Hill shared their experience (this incident resulted in the truck stop selling groceries less than four hours after it opened the next day). Sanchez quickly jumped from cooking 30 pounds of beef a day to 150 pounds, which resulted in 300 orders that sold out almost daily.
The nice thing about the quesabirria tacos is that they mean something different to whoever serves them. Ortiz says she started offering them to provide more Mexican comfort dishes to their customers during the pandemic. For Sanchez and Garcia, this meant the realization of a long-cherished dream. They moved to Tampa in 2009 and wanted to open a restaurant, but it wasn’t planned until that year. Now their new, bigger truck is almost ready and they plan to get the original truck on the road, which only serves Birria tacos.
The joy brought on by her recent success is evident on Garcia’s face. He throws his arms around this writer for a hug as our time together comes to an end. He can’t help it, he says.
“We only wanted this for so long.”
WHERE TO FIND QUESABIRRIA TACOS
TACOS LAS CALIFORNIAS
7007 N. Armenia Ave.
1910 N. Ola Ave.
1611 N. Howard Ave.
615 Channelside Drive
1604 N. 17th St.
1001 N. MacDill Ave.
THE CHAPOS TACOS
951 E. 7th Ave.
2506 W. Columbus Drive
TAMPA TACO COMPANY
1532 Land O’Lakes Blvd.
Suite H | Lutz