Quesabirria tacos have seemingly exploded all over the Mission. There are at least half a dozen locales serving the now-ubiquitous, wonderfully juicy, cheesy, and savory tacos that originated in Tijuana. Since takeout is still alive and well — as it appears the pandemic is going nowhere fast — here are just three of the newest (to us) we recently tried.
A humble hole-in-the-wall I stumbled upon, but what a find – and I’m ashamed it took me so long. First off, I love the ambiguity of the name: does Chuy have multiple Fiestas? Is the restaurant owned by Chuy and Fiesta? No matter; the name “Chuy” reminds me of Cheech & Chong and the lovely vatos of my high school days. And the food here was excelente.
I got the quesabirria and shrimp tacos. The quesabirria was beef (it can be goat), very tender, and the consomé (the accompanying broth that the meat was cooked in) was mildly flavored, not overly assertive, as many can be. I wished the taco had a bit more cheese, but the flavor was great. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, great texture, in a fresh-tasting, limey chipotle mayo.
I’d get both these dishes again.
BF got a super “beef” burrito, which turned out to be carne asada, and despite his wishing it was a mojado, he was very pleased with it. I tasted it: Better than most of the burritos he gets, IMO.
All the food just had good, homey, clean flavors, in a way that didn’t make me tire of them before we were done, if that makes any sense. This will be a new go-to for us, as I’m eager to try other things on their pretty extensive menu.
2341 Folsom Street
La Vaca Birria
Next up, La Vaca Birria, which only opened about two and a half months ago, in the space formerly occupied by Top Round, the Beef on weck sandwich place. La Vaca does only birria, in different incarnations: quesabirria tacos, burritos, a birria plate with beans, rice, tortillas, a torta ahogada (with birria), birria fries, and — get this — ramen!
Of course, I had to try the ramen. They even call it the “Maruchan,” because I’m betting they’re using that instant noodle brand, and sadly, you can tell, because the ramen itself was very limp and mushy. Too bad, because the birria was great. Rich, with subtle notes of clove, this is a hearty birria. My taco was a fantastic, crispy, oozy, cheesy dream, and the BF’s super burrito came filled to the brim with tender birria, rice, beans, grilled cheese, sour cream and avo; both with consomé on the side for dunking. Really delicious. Fresh blended salsas too: A limey cilantro, and a creamy habanero with a lot of kick.
I’d go back to try the esquites and tajin fries. They also offer margaritas, Micheladas , horchatas borrachas, cheladas, and sangria.
La Vaca Birria
2962 24th Street
And finally, Donaji, in the old Great Gold space, just opened in October. Named after a Zapotec princess, Donaji had been a staple for tamales at farmers’ markets in the City, including our own Mission Community Market. Chef Isai Cuevas hails from Oaxaca, and I was eager to taste food from that region, as I don’t know it very well. I’m not actually sure if quesabirria has made it there, but Chef Cuevas has spent many years cooking in San Francisco, and his was a beaut, probably my favorite of the three. All the meat flavors were intense. However, the star of the show is their use of fresh masa in all their dishes.
BF got two tamales: Beef (brisket) and pork (cochinita), both wonderful, not dry as I often find Mexican tamales, and the deep flavor of the meat really shone through the tender masa. His tamales came with a curtido-like pickled slaw, red and green hot sauces, and crema. My quesabirria was made with beef short ribs, and while I wish they were a little juicier, the beef was incredible, Ultra beefy, and the consomé was just that: A pure, silky, bovine broth, strained of any meat. I could not put these tacos down. Especially loved the cheese lining the tortillas.
We also ordered the chicken posole, as I thought the BF would be hungry with just tamales. He wasn’t, but I’m glad I did. Delicious broth, tender chicken, all the accouterments. I also got a side of rice, because I tend to judge Mexican restaurants on their rice. Unfortunately, this was their weakest point, almost flavorless. At least we had that lovely broth to mix into the rice. Besides that, I’d order everything again, and I’d love to try their mole enchiladas, as mole is a specialty of Oaxacan cuisine.
3161 24th Street
An embarrassment of quesabirria — and other — riches is what we have here in the Mission. So get out there, support our local businesses, and get your fill!