Tacos y Birria El Güero: Count On the Consommé

Even though it's just enough to fill a small Styrofoam cup, the consommé de birria at Tacos y Birria El Güero is like the Feeding of the 5,000 in liquid form. One spoonful, and the fatty, scalding, comforting drippings from just-roasted goat fill your stomach as much as a double-double. Add in some chopped onions, cilantro, scraps of chile de árbol lurking at the bottom and heroic jiggers of salsa de aceite—an oily, furious beast more fire than hot sauce—and it's a meal that can meet your nutritional needs for a couple of days. One cup could keep a high-school football team satiated during Hell Week; a cauldron of the stuff, which boils behind the counter from before sunrise to long into the night, could feed the multitudes without leaving anyone hungry.

Birria and consommé is the name of the juego at this longstanding taquería in deepest, darkest SanTana. Almost all customers usually have a complimentary cup, especially on cold winter days when the steaming consommé is even more of an edible blanket than a tamale. El Güero does sell other cuts of meat in taco, torta and burrito form, but those are afterthoughts; there is no menu other than a tattered marquee, random specials highlighted on cardboard and a faded photo of a torta. See, the staff want you to order birria—you can hear it upon entering El Güero, the sound of cleaver meeting flesh on a wooden counter drowning out all conversations. The pounding only stops so the cook can yell out an order—almost all of them involving birria.

Despite the obsession with goat, you better come early if you want some, as it sells out fast daily; what's left is parsed out in taco form to make the birria of the day stretch as far as possible. And what a birria it is: gamy, rich, with strips of fat unapologetically left in to add that last touch of rusticity. In taco form (which, while a bit expensive for me at $1.25, nevertheless remains a bargain considering the mounds of meat in the large tortilla) or seca (presented as is), you can let the birria sit on your tongue for just a bit and feel it dissipate, as it's so tender. But I always prefer birria in the consommé—this way, every spoonful has meat and broth, lightness and fury, yin and yang.

Then again . . . that consommé, alone. Drinking it is like sipping from the Cup of Life, so invigorating and spicy—nature's Four Loko.

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