Taco Task Force: Los Angeles Birria

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Goat Los Angeles

Birrieria Chalio mounted a goat head on their wall. As a warning to other goats?

Since the first Taco Task Force mission turned out to be so successful, we reconvened on January 3, 2010. Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet L.A.), Matthew Kang (Mattatouille), Javier Cabral (The Glutster) and Cathy Danh (gas•tron•o•my), her fiancé Vernon and I crisscrossed Los Angeles to determine the best birria taco in L.A.

There were certain factors we were interested in assessing at each stop, including the quality of the goat meat, the condiments/tortilla, the quality of the cooking and the overall flavor. This time, we voted to dispense with the oh-so-vague “authenticity” category, since Esparza and Cabral are the only members of the task force with extensive Mexican travel experience. Instead, we relied on some context courtesy of Mr. Esparza:

“We are doing goat birria from the heart of Mexico, Jalisco and Zacatecas. This birria is a dry chile adobo usually with ancho, guajillo, and cascabel; cumin, peppercorns, and cloves as a principal spicings; broiled tomatoes are used in the sauce.

The whole goat is usually roasted slowly in an oven, the drippings are blended with tomatoes to make a sauce that is added to the goat prior to serving. Chopped white onion and cilantro are added at the table and tacos made with fresh tortillas.

Authenticity-should be oven roasted, sauce prepared from drippings, served with oregano and chopped onions and homemade tortillas. Unlike baja fish tacos, the norm here are tortillas hecho a mano.”

Here’s my rundown, with interspersed scoresheets featuring Jo for Joshua, B for Bill, Ja for Javier, C for Cathy and her fiancé Vernon and M for Matthew. We rated each category using a 5 point scale.

1. Birrieria Chalio
3580 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, 323 268 5349

Mexican Restaurant Los Angeles

Our first stop was at a 24-year-old Boyle Heights classic that specializes in birria representative of Nochistlan, Zacatecas. We sat in a green booth, surrounded by Aztec imagery. Stuffed goat and deer heads lined the walls. We had easy access to kid-friendly vending machines, but chose goat over gumballs.

Birria Los Angeles

We split a plate of rib and leg meat ($9.95) at Birrieria Chalio. The chile-lacquered meat wasn’t funky enough, and the accompanying consomé was bland, but the texture was nice and crusty.

Tortillas Los Angeles

It cost an extra $2 for condiments, including fluffy, pancake-like corn tortillas. That was money well spent.

Salsa Los Angeles

Chopped cilantro, onions and lime were standard issue. I enjoyed their salsa roja, and the bottle of punchy habanero clove sauce typical of Zacatecas was a nice bonus.

Grade of Key Ingredient: Jo 3.5, B 3.5, Ja 4, CV 3.5, M 3 AVERAGE 3.5/5
Condiment/Tortilla: Jo 3.5, B 3.5, Ja 4, CV 3, M 3 AVERAGE 3.4/5
Overall Flavor: Jo 3, B 3, Ja 4, CV 3, M 3.5 AVERAGE 3.3/5
Cooking: Jo 3.5, B 3, Ja 4, CV 3, M 3.5 AVERAGE 3.4/5


2. Birrieria Guadalajara
1128 South Atlantic Boulevard, Los Angeles, 323 268 8885

Mexican Restaurant Los Angeles

The owner of this plain-looking East L.A. restaurant is from El Salvador, which doesn’t necessarily disqualify their birria from contention.

Mexican Restaurant Los Angeles

Birrieria Guadalajara featured tiny goat figurines on shelves, a well-stocked jukebox and soccer on TV.

Birria Los Angeles

The leg and thigh meat was dry and flavorless, and the consomé lacked any complexity.

Tortillas Los Angeles

Birrieria Guadalajara provided medium thick corn tortillas to form tacos.

Birria Los Angeles

A red tablecloth backdrop and white plate helped Birrieria Guadalajara’s birria look better than it tasted.

Salsa Los Angeles

Minced onions were red instead of white, which hinted at inauthenticity, but no matter the color of the onion, it wasn’t going to make a difference at our least impressive stop of the day.

Grade of Key Ingredient: Jo 1, B 1.5, Ja 1, CV 1.5, M 1.5 AVERAGE 1.3/5
Condiment/Tortilla: Jo 2, B 1, Ja 1.5, CV 0.5, M 1.5 AVERAGE 1.3/5
Overall Flavor: Jo 1, B 1, Ja 1, CV 1, M 1 AVERAGE 1/5
Cooking: Jo 0.5, B 1.5, Ja 1, CV 0.5, M 2 AVERAGE 1.1/5


3. Tepeque [CLOSED]
3249 East Gage Avenue, Huntington Park, 323 588 8350

Mexican Restaurant Los Angeles

Tepeque is a wonderful birria emporium in the style of Michoacan. Owner Gerardo Gutierrez has been making birria for 15 years and hails from Apatzingan in the region’s Tierra Caliente.

Mexican Restaurant Los Angeles

We sat at a large table in the middle of the room, surrounded by aqua booths and intricate murals, not only of goats, but also of beaches with palapas.

Birria Los Angeles

Tepeque served the juiciest birria ($8.99) all day, with an intoxicating consomé with a winning goat funk.

Birria Los Angeles

Tepeque’s typical birria order consists of shoulder meat from a young goat.

Birria Los Angeles

We also loaded up goat ribs (costillas) and greedily ripping tender, juice-soaked meat from tiny bones.

Salsa Los Angeles

Salsas were especially impactful at Tepeque. House-made chips came with dishes of salsa de arbol and tomatillo. Upon request, we received a concentrated salsa packed with salsa de arbol, dried chilies and oil.

Tortillas Los Angeles

Tepeque provides warm corn tortillas that complement their birria and condiments.

Grade of Key Ingredient: Jo 4.5, B 4.5, Ja 4, CV 5, M 4.5 AVERAGE 4.5/5
Condiment/Tortilla: Jo 4.5, B 4, Ja 4, CV 4, M 4 AVERAGE 4.1/5
Overall Flavor: Jo 4, B 4, Ja 4, CV 5, M 4.5 AVERAGE 4.3/5
Cooking: Jo 4.5, B 5, Ja 4, CV 5, M 5 AVERAGE 4.7/5




Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Thanks for putting together the list. My grandfather Manuel Cisneros started El Parian in 1963 and I literally grew up in the birreria so of course I am biased. Nothing beats the consome con tortillas. Actually i use to order a half order of carnitas with my birria and let the carnitas soak in the consome and that was the bomb.

I would order costillas(ribs) and espinazo(spinal cord) and remove the meat from the bones, place it in a tortilla slab some salsa, onion and cilantro and and dip it in the consome… nothing better than that….just some tips from someone who has birria ingrained in their DNA…

I would also recommend my uncles birrieria in Pomona…El Cabrito…It is really, really good….2055 South Reservoir Street Pomona, CA 91766‎ (909) 464-8091


Thanks a lot for your insights, and the El Cabrito recommendation. Salud.

yummy foods..however sad to see the goat..

People aren’t always comfortable seeing the source of their food, or to even admit that meat comes from animals. Out of sight, out of mind, but not always.

I love eating food like this. I live in Oceanside CA. and eat at Diegos a lot. They have the big crunchy Taco’s with real shredded beef. I don’t think I could ever go a week without eating there at least once.

[…] Food GPS, Mattatouille and Crew on the Birria Taco Task Force […]

found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

Bricia can handle like 10 stops in one day. Alright glutster, get on the potato tacos, I’ve got the barbacoa booted up and ready to go, no unknown quantities this time. And, a new find.

Not before we do potato tacos first 🙂

KCRW also wants in actually. As always, thanks for being the first to write and inspiring the rest of us to get on it!

see you around.

Potato tacos vs. Barbacoa? No contest, but we did discuss potato. How’s your scout going, Glutster?

seriously, this is great… I posted it on my FB ; ) — you know, us normal people, that’s what we have.. Facebook (Foodmarathon’s words)
I’m so in for barbacoa

I mean to say… “I want IN on the next taco task force”


Thanks for the feedback. You’re in for barbacoa.

By far, one of the best posts I’ve seen. I want it on the next taco task force..

I love Tepeque. I hope this post helps get them more attention. And I have never tried the goat at Flor del Rio. I will have to get out there as soon as possible. Thanks for the tip.


Glad to hear you’ve already discovered the wonders of Tepeque. Flor del Rio is also well worth a visit.

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