Birria, the savory spicy stew with saucy shredded meat, has been flooding social media platforms, shown on pizza, nachos, and tortillas, and tucked in tacos, quesadillas (quesabirria), or in a cup of ramen.
It’s red-hot nationwide, thanks to recipe-posting TikTok users, but birria isn’t so new to Detroit. Birria, which originated in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, started popping up on taco menus a couple of years ago at food trucks and sit-down restaurants in southwest Detroit, where a large and growing community has roots in Jalisco. The meat’s popularity is still soaring, finding a spot on menus to be served beyond the traditional setting of weddings, baptisms, and special occasions.
Besides southwest, you’ll now also find birria in northwest Detroit, Downriver, in Novi, and offered by a slew of sellers on Facebook Marketplace for pickup or delivery, mostly on Tuesdays.
For the uninitiated, birria is a stew slow-cooked with goat, lamb, or beef. Although many purists say goat is the most traditional protein, it’s more common for local cooks to use beef, lamb, and even chicken. The meat is rubbed in vinegar, chiles, herbs, and spices, then roasted in a pit or oven, pressure-cooked, or steamed. The fatty drippings from the cooking process are used to make a brick-red consomme, or broth, used to dip the meat-stuffed taco or quesadillas, or as a soup accompanied by diced onions, cilantro, sliced radishes, and lime wedges for squeezing and drizzling.
At Mexican restaurants, birria often doesn’t appear on the menu, but with a simple ask, you might be in luck. This is a hands-on street food that requires napkins and an eater who isn’t afraid to get a little messy.
Hungry yet? Here’s where you can find delicious birria in Detroit and beyond:
Birria isn’t listed on the outside of the menu painted on this cash-only food truck, but its beef stew often is available for stuffing inside a taco. Lines in the parking lot for the tacos here in southwest Detroit, but the workers are fast. Like all of the selections here, its birria tacos are juicy, flavorful, and overflowing with meat.
3700 Central Ave., Detroit. Open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The cooks at this small, unassuming restaurant tucked into a suburban Novi strip mall, hail from various states in Mexico. Perhaps that’s why there’s a lot of variety on the extensive menu at Burrito King. The birria stew recipe combines marinated beef and lamb; birria is also available in a dinner platter. Meat for the tacos is a mix of marinated goat and beef.
30950 Beck Rd., Novi, 248-960-6566; website.
For finer dining or a special occasion, head to La Terraza. It uses beef in its birria recipe, which is available as a soup served with tortillas, and in tacos covered in spicy hot sauce and red onion. Its quesabirria corn tortilla stuffed with tender birria with melted mozzarella is a great choice.
8445 W. Vernor Highway, Detroit, 313-843-1433; website.
Second-generation owner Alvaro Padilla’s father opened this southwest Detroit late-night destination 20 years ago after running a taco stand in his native Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco. His birria stew recipe is made with marinated lamb or goat and accompanied by onion and lime.
7400 W. Vernor Highway, Detroit, 313-554-1790; Facebook page.
The owners of Camino Real run a 180-seat sit-down restaurant in southwest Detroit, and a second shop in Wyandotte that opened in 2014. Beef birria is on the menu here, served weekends-only as a stew with a tortilla on the side.
1100 Central Avenue, Detroit, 313-297-8804; 851 Fort St, Wyandotte, 734-258-8790; website.
Detroit Taco Bar
This storefront build-it-yourself taco bar often has birria tacos made with chicken, but the spicy jerk chicken, which you can’t find elsewhere, sets them apart. The cajun shrimp tacos are also great.
16241 W McNichols Rd., Detroit, 313-808-7005.
One of the most popular taquerias in the city, Mi Pueblo serves live music alongside a sit-down meal. Birria here is marinated beef stew with chopped onions and lime on the side, or as a platter with rice and beans. It’s available on the weekends.
7278 Dix St., Detroit, 313-841-3315; website.
El Barzon’s bricked-in patio oasis is one of the top outdoor dining spots in the city. The white tablecloth eatery is a perfect special occasion spot where goat barbacoa is on the menu. Birria is a product of barbacoa; at this Mexican-Italian restaurant, it’s marinated with special herbs and oven baked.
3710 Junction Ave., Detroit, 313-894-2070; website.