I love tacos. In fact, it’s fair to say that a perfectly executed taco is my favorite food. And there are some great tacos in Salt Lake City. The Hispanic community in Salt Lake is large and there is no shortage of great Mexican restaurants to choose from. My daughter, who inherited my love of good food, had been telling me for several months about the Birria tacos at Los Tapatios – a small Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake. I had never heard of Birria, and when she explained it to me, it honestly didn’t excite me. But I do trust her taste, and made a mental note to visit Los Tapatios at some point.
She made sure that “some point” came sooner than expected by taking me there for Father’s Day a few weeks ago – insistent that I needed to eat Birria tacos sooner than later. And I’m grateful for the push. Because they were delicious! I even returned the following weekend to give Mrs. Thorough Tripper a chance to experience Birria tacos at Los Tapatios. Let me show you what these popular tacos are all about.
What is Birria
Birria is stewed meat typical of the Jalisco region of Mexico. Goat or lamb is traditionally used to make Birria, though beef is more common when it’s made in the US. It is often a celebratory meal in Mexico, commonly served at family events.
Birria can be served as a soup, with the meat shredded and served in the juices (or “consome”) developed during the slow cooking. Cilantro, onion, and lime juice are then added to the soup just prior to eating.
Or, the Birria can be served inside tacos, with the consome served on the side for dipping.
The Menu at Los Tapatios
The Los Tapatios menu features only Birria. The owners are from Jalisco and their goal was to introduce the people of Salt Lake to their beloved Mexican speciality. The menu is simple. Tacos, quesadillas, burritos – all filled with Birria. They also offer a Birria platter with rice, beans, and homemade tortillas. But the tacos are the star here. On weekend days, they will sell anywhere between 3000-4500 Birria tacos!
In order to make their delicious Birria, the beef is marinated for 48 hours in their special blend of chilis and spices. It’s then slow-cooked for 5 hours, starting at 3 am each morning. The meat is then removed from the pots and shredded, while the remaining juices are used to make the consome. During the weekends, they cook 500 lbs of beef daily!
The restaurant is small. It currently only has 7 tables, reduced due to COVID. But even in normal times, I’m guessing there is probably only room for 3 more. We visited at around noon each time, and waited 20-30 minutes for a table. I noticed their very very busy takeout line, and I’m guessing that the majority of their 4500 daily tacos go out the door. They also sell their Birria from a food truck that moves regularly around the valley (the schedule is on their Facebook page).
The Birria Tacos
The Birria tacos at Los Tapatios are served either crispy or soft, with the option to add cheese. Onions (both grilled and raw), cilantro, jalapeño, and salsa are served on the side.
I opted for the crispy tacos each time. I don’t eat much cheese. And hardly ever eat it on tacos. But my daughter did talk me into at least trying a cheesy version. My personal preference remains cheese-free, but cheese lovers will be very happy.
The crispy taco is fried on the grill – not deep-fried. Consequently, the tortilla is crisp on the outside but still chewy on the inside. I really enjoyed this textural dichotomy. It’s easy to open up each taco and add your desired balance of extras, before soaking it in the flavorful consome. The Birria is not spicy hot, but the tacos are hot off the grill. The rice and beans here are also outstanding. And I couldn’t help but dip spoonfuls of those into the consome, too.
Mexican Food Heaven
Los Tapatios sits only one block away from both Red Iguana 1 (to the east) and Red Iguana 2 (to the south). I have posted before about the joys of Red Iguana – my favorite restaurant in Salt Lake City. Red Iguana is a local dining institution and is famous for its excellent moles.
Two blocks south of Los Tapatios you’ll find Chunga’s – another great Salt Lake Mexican restaurant famous for its excellent Tacos Al Pastor.
Los Tapatios also shares a parking lot with Rancho Market – Salt Lake’s best Hispanic grocery store with perhaps the greatest produce section I’ve seen in any grocery store period.
I think it’s fair to say that this two block radius in west Salt Lake has the valley’s best Mexican food. For out-of-town visitors, this area is less than 2 miles from downtown Salt Lake and very easy to reach via light rail or ride-share. And local residents who love great Mexican food should be visiting this area regularly like I do. I’m grateful to my daughter for pushing me to add Birria tacos at Los Tapatios to my list of must-haves.
Eating at Los Tapatios ended up being my favorite local food discovery of 2021. You can click here to learn about the rest of my favorite Food and Travel of 2021.