For the second meeting of the Taco Taskforce, Bill (Street Gourmet L.A.), Javier (The Glutster), Matt (Mattatouille), Josh (Food GPS), and I aimed to find Los Angeles’ best goat (birria) taco. While goat meat hasn’t caught on in mainstream American cuisine, it is beloved across the globe. I tasted goat for the first time while living in Vietnam, and was taken aback by its deep flavor and favorable texture. Whether prepared in a salad, a curry, or simply grilled, the meat was very enjoyable and not overwhelmingly gamey.
In Mexico, whole goats are rubbed with a collection of savory spices (ancho, cumin, peppercorns, cloves) and oven roasted. After hours of slow and low cooking, the meat is sauced with a blend of drippings and broiled tomatoes, and served with fresh corn tortillas, white onions, and cilantro. Tacos are assembled by hand at the table. The mission of the Taco Taskforce was to find the place in town that best approximates a south-of-the-border birria experience.
With hundreds of birrierias scattered throughout the Southland, it would have been impossible to taste every single one. For the sake of our sanity, palates, and wallets, we explored a total of seven goat shacks as curated by Bill. One of the restaurants on the list turned out to be a total disaster, while the other six were winning all around. The outlier was eliminated from the rankings below.
With write ups in the LA Weekly, Travel+Leisure, and the Los Angeles Times, Birrieria Jalisco was the most celebrated restaurant on our tour. The condiments here were only so-so. The thin and sour consomme didn’t merit sipping on its own, but performed adequately to moisten the goat meat. The tortilla was not handmade and was heated through on a charred grill.
The spine, leg, and rib meat were all very good, but lacked the heady flavor and divine texture that better establishments delivered.
#5 Birrieria Chalio – Boyle Heights
Birrieria Chalio, which specializes in Zacateca-style birria, was our first stop on the taco tour. The condiments here were hit or miss. The handmade corn tortillas measured a foot in diameter and were downright fluffy. I enjoyed eating the tortilla alone, but found it too thick paired with the meat. The weakest accoutrement was the consomme, which bordered on bland and tasted of canned tomatoes.
The hunks of ribs and legs weren’t “crazy tender” according on my notes, but the burnt ends were texturally appealing.
#4 Birrieria Tlaquepaque – Huntington Park
Birrieria Tlaquepaque has two outlets located across the street from one another. Since the opening of Birrieria Tlaquepaque #2, the original one has been converted into a take-out joint. The newer location is ten times bigger and able to accommodate large groups.
Since we ate at the original location, the consomme was poured over the meat and the tortillas were not handmade. [The tortillas are handmade at Birrieria Tlaquepaque #2.] The broth was very pleasant and salted to perfection—it would’ve made a splendid soup on its own.
The flavor of the rib and leg meat was spot on, while the texture could’ve been more tender. However, considering that an older goat was employed, it was an all around solid birria effort.
#3 El Parian Restaurant – Pico Union
Jonathan Gold once declared El Parian’s birria, “the single best regional Mexican dish in Los Angeles.” We found the consomme well-balanced, soulful, and appealingly tomato-y and appreciated that the tortillas were made for all to see.
The sections of rib and leg meat were extremely tender. The chewy bits of cartilage and collagen added interest to the mix.
#2 Flor Del Rio – Boyle Heights
Flor Del Rio was the most charming birrieria we visited. The consomme was tangy, satisfying, and full of goat flavor, while the handmade tortillas were warm and just thick enough.
The amazingly tender meat slid off the bone cleanly and contained an abundance of delicious connective tissue.
#1 Birrieria Tepeque – Huntington Park ** CLOSED **
Birrieria Teqpeque captured the picky hearts of the Taco Taskforce with its Michoacan-style birria. The consomme was bright, lovely, and popped with tanginess. The handmade tortillas were more than adequate, but the meat here was so amazing that it begged to be eaten straight up with one’s fingers.
Baby goat is the secret to Teqpeque’s standout birria. Aside from being ridiculously tender, the meat absorbed the spices beautifully. The distinct and delicious flavors of chilies and cloves permeated the ribs and shoulders like no other.
I was ready to throw in the towel after sampling Teqpeque’s birria, but I had to plow on with the Taskforce to make doubly sure. After tasting the city’s best, I am positive that Teqpeque cannot be topped.
3580 E 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90063
1845 East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
1734 E Florence Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90001
El Parian Restaurant
1528 W Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Flor Del Rio
3201 East 4th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90063
Birrieria Tepeque ** CLOSED **
3249 East Gage Avenue
Huntington Park, CA 90255