In case you hadn't noticed yet (my partner Mharie certainly has), I have become obsessed with the latest and possibly greatest ever food trend, birria tacos (or quesa birria as it is sometimes called). It first came to my attention in an article in The Daily Hive and more recently, in a March 2, 2021 article at Vancouver is Awesome, by Lindsay William-Ross entitled, "What is a birria taco and where can I get them in Vancouver?" I suggest that you read that article for the explanation and some history while I devote myself to sniffing out all the birria tacos that Metro Vancouver has to offer! So far we have tried them at Don Osso in Burnaby (which also serves birria ramen) and Little Mexico Cantina in Steveston. You can read about those places on this blog and check out our pics on Instagram. Our recent visit to Tacofina Taco Bar in Gastown also served to widen our birria taco horizons.
I was a little annoyed that there is no way to speak to someone on the phone at the Taco Bar. All you are able to do is listen to a recording and leave a message (which was never answered). Mharie and I have travelled to too many places for something specific only to find they were out of it or they are closed or they don't live there anymore. I like some assurances but we took our chances and were not disappointed this time.
Located at 15 West Cordova, a sign on the front door invites you to enter through the Blood Alley entrance a few steps away, for dine-in. We were able to get a table right away despite the fact that they were quite busy at about 1:30 Saturday afternoon. Plexiglass, hand sanitizer and masks are the order of the day as they are at most places which made us feel comfortable in our surroundings.
The birria soup (from the online menu) is no longer available so we opted to start with the Salmon Ceviche. A fermented cucumber broth is evidently the 'cure' for the salmon in this case. It is a surprisingly bright flavour that no doubt has some secret ingredients like citrus or tomatillo. At any rate, this is a tasty dish with some tomato, avocado, cilantro and jalapeno. Really nice!
Then came the parade of excellent tacos starting with a Fish Taco. Deep-fried white fish, cod maybe, with cabbage, salsa fresca and chipotle mayo. The tacos seem a little expensive ($6.50) but they are actually a decent deal with lots of fish etc., on a 6-inch tortilla. And again, really tasty!
Next, we had a gringa taco which, I don't think I have heard of. This was the Corn and Mushroom Gringa with aged cheddar and epazote. It was melty and warm on the inside with that slightly crispy cheese skirt on the outside. Try one of these!
Under the heading of way creative was the Squash Scrapple Taco. 'Scrapple' is a Pennsylvania Dutch concoction of pork stuff made into a loaf, sliced and fried. I guess the scrapple in this refers to a sort of butternut squash loaf that is sliced and fried. With a topping of deep-fried kabocha slices, pickled poblano and served tostada style, this left us smiling!
Finally came the main event, the Birria Taco, of which I ordered 2 knowing that we would be less willing to share than usual! This was a braised lamb taco which I gather, is a little closer to the original from Jalisco. Oaxaca cheese, pickled red onions, cilantro and jus on the side completed the picture. This broth was not as rich as some that we have tried but the distinctive lamb flavour made it memorable. A little crunchy on the outside, melty and cheesy on the inside and tender lamb make this a must-have version of a birria taco!
We had a great server who was as enthusiastic about tacos as ourselves. This is a good-sized room but I'm sure it can get busy at peak times. I found the white chairs to be on the uncomfortable side. There are like 6 locations of Tacofino and 3 trucks in Metro Vancouver. The menus at each are different but only Gastown has the birria tacos so far as I can tell! I still look forward to scoping out some of the others to see what they have!
Food 4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort 3 out of 5
Service 4 1/2 out of 5
Value 4 out of 5
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