Keeping It Flavorful: Have you tried a quesabirria?

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Crystal Apilado/Winters Express The quesabirria from El Pueblo Meat Market — these were a duo of corn tortillas, grilled with a crisp perfection that every grilled cheese sandwich dreams of being. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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On occasion, something new shows up in your path and you can embrace it with curiosity or shove it to the curb with ferocity. In 2020, it seemed that birria took the country by storm. From social media reels to food blogs, everyone had a recipe or food pic to share of some Mexican-American birria variation.

At the time, I turned my nose up at the trendy food item. I wanted my street tacos and that was all I needed in life. But, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. (If you know me, don’t choke on your coffee reading my admission.)

I woke up fully intending on writing about the classic burrito. I day dreamed of how in high school I would opt to stand in line to order a breakfast burrito from Kountry Kitchen. I’m not a morning person, but I’d wake up early once in a while for a breakfast burrito. I would have gone to get one, but it was almost lunch time at the high school.

There’s something to be said about a menu item that you can eat with one hand, while reading a book or navigating through potential binge-worthy show options.

Instead, I ordered a vegetarian burrito from El Pueblo Meat Market & Taqueria, thinking I’d share half of it with my husband. I had already begun to think about which of the salsas I would grab, and was trying to recall which of the salsas he liked best when I got distracted by a though I had filed away.

The gal at the counter asked if there was anything else she could get me, and I asked “do you have a quesadilla-birria thing on the menu?”

In September, Inesita Arce had sent me an email asking, “you have tried the tacos, but have you tried a quesabirria?”

I hadn’t. It was time to try something new and adventurous.

The gal nodded yes, and said “We have a plate of three that comes with rice and beans …” and before she could tell me the other option (I assume there was one) I told her that was what I’d like. She smiled and rung up my order. I patiently waited and then drove home with my eye on the bag holding my order. Images of soggy looking tacos dipped in sauce played through my head — but I was putting my trust (and my curiosity) into this whim of an order.

I knew that everything had changed the moment I opened the lid. These were not soggy tacos. These were a duo of corn tortillas, grilled to a crisp perfection that every grilled cheese sandwich dreams of being. Melted cheese oozed with the shredded beef and the smell wafted up. My dog came over and sat next to me with a puppy-dog gleam in his eyes. I may have given him a side-eye in response.

I opened the lid on the red sauce that comes with it. Skillfully, I peeled open the quesabirria and scooped in some of the freshly chopped cilantro and onions. (I don’t even like raw onions, but they were in there and I was willing to partake.) I squeezed some lime juice on the meat before closing folding it closed and dipping it in.

In the email, Inesita asked “Have you ever thought about what the baby of a quesadilla and an enchilada would taste like?” The answer is the quesabirria, and the flavor is hearty, rich and delicious. The seasonings are warm, and the color tells me there are some serious chilis in there.

I had consumed two before I my stomach screamed that it was enough. I saved the last one for my oldest daughter, who is also a taco fanatic. She opted out of the fresh cilantro and onions, but flashed me two thumbs up in approval — and then scooped some of the shredded meat that had fallen into the bottom of the sauce cup back into the quesabirria.

My question to you, have you tried the quesabirria? And if not, I challenge you to skip your regular order and try it the next opportunity you have.

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