Birria is something you'll find in every part of Mexico, and the most famous versions come from Jalisco and Zacatecas (where our jefe comes from). In those states they roast the goat in a natural or conventional oven, using the drippings to make a rich cumin-laced stock and serve every part of the goat imaginable. Birria means an ugly mess, but staring into a bowl of goat floating in a brick-red sauce is truly a thing of beauty--especially after a night involving bottle of tequila chased by a case of beer at a local bar in Talpa de Allende, Jalisco.
But birria is just the name of the dish, and any protein can be used: goat, lamb, or beef are the most popular preparations, but even seafood is an option. In Baja you'll find goat birria from Jaliscans, and Chef Javier Plascencia's Erizo Fish Market even has fish birria, but the stew pot version of birria de res, or beef birria is king in Baja California. Every Tijuanense has their favorite, to try to persuade them otherwise could end a friendship. You can find birria stands all over the city, and in Baja in general, but Tacos Fito's and Birrieria La 5ta are two Tijuana street veterans that deliver Baja breakfast tradition, fast and hot.
Birria de res en caldo
Tijuanenses have their birria de res two ways--in tacos, or in caldos, or soups, poured into a Styrofoam cup served with a stack of corn tortillas baptized in the crimson waters of the slow cooked soup.
Birrieria La 5ta (5th St.), which has confusing signage from when they were Birrieria La 4ta(4th St.) starts their day just like all other competitors, with a large stock pot full of their secret recipe which cranks our birria de res until the vessel runs dry. Tongue in a rich broth is their other offering. Most of these vendors have a second choice which can either be had by itself or campechano (mixed).
Tacos of birria de res and lengua at Birrieria La 5ta, Tijuana
Weekends are made for birria de res in Tijuana--it's one of the privileges of the working class, available in the pinche madrugada (dawn) for those on their way to work; it's a headache-resistant dose of nutrition for the drunks on their way home, and something for the whole family in the late morning.
Their taco de birria was well-seasoned on its own, but needed a bit more wetness--this is achieved in the cup-of-soup version.
Head down to the Mercado Hidalgo at 5AM and you'll find Taco Fito's handing out tacos in rapid fire fashion to the market grunts hauling in crates of vegetables, chiles, and products from all over Mexico for the day's customers. If you don't make it over by 1PM you'll be out of luck--as all birrieros, they sell until they run out, and then they're gone.
Taco of birria de res at Tacos Fito's, Tijuana
Tacos Fito's birria de res tacos taste like salvation wrapped in a tortilla--they are the rason to head back to La 6ta tonight and just right back into the bottle just so you can return for this delicious hangover cure.
You can order your birria soaked tortillas dorado, or crispy for an added sensation, and the toasty tripas, or chitterlings are to die for. I recommend a second round of tacos here, campechano style: chitterlings and birria de res.
You need to stand around for a while at Fito's to marvel at the taqueros--they could be the fastest in the world. They chop, flip, ladle, and toss up cilantro, onions, birria, stock, and sauce onto a tortilla with super hero swagger.
It wouldn't be wrong to embark on your own birria de res crawl starting here at Tacos Fito's and winding your way from the Zona Rio to around the tourist strip where you'll come across birriero after birriero. Birria de res is a bonafide taste of Baja, and it's how Tijuanenses say good morning.
Birrieria La 5ta is located on Bl. Constitucion just south of 5th St. in the tourist zone. Tijuana, B.C. Open mornings until the early afternoon; Tacos Fito's is located across from the entrance to the Mercado Hidalgo on Francisco Javier Mina, Zona Rio, Tijuana, B.C. It's open from 5AM to 1PM daily.
Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!