Birrieria Zaragoza

I’ve been meaning to write about this place for months and got sidetracked. Also, I knew it would make me want to go there again, and it’s a 1 1/2 hour trip for me each way.  There are not a lot of places I would travel for 3 hours for a plate of food.  This is one of them.

If I was walking past this place with no inside information, I would’ve passed it by.  I’d have thought it just another of the city’s scores of taquerias, most of which are a culinary gamble. Some great, some horrendous, most somewhere in between.  I wish I could say that the second you walk in this place, you know that it’s something different, but that would be a lie.

It takes at least 30 seconds.

Because within 30 seconds you see the woman behind that counter operating a giant tortilla press.  As in, making them right there.  In front of you.  Bringing them out batch by batch, still warm.

You notice that it’s 11 a.m. on a Monday and their tables are mostly full and so is their counter.

A super friendly guy comes over to your table, not giving you dirty looks for being a single girl at a two top and not making you feel out of place for not knowing Spanish.

And before the 30 seconds is up, he’ll say, gently but without apology, “Just so you know, we serve only goat here.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m very excited.  I’ve never tried goat, and this place was recommended to me.”

“Well, let me tell you about what we do here.”

He then explained that they only use organic goats.  I have no idea what classifies a goat as organic, but I’m behind it, either way.  He told me that they kill the goats in house.  I know, a little gruesome, but it’s comforting to know that the goat wasn’t sent through a slaughterhouse but was killed by someone skilled from practice and who surely made it as painless and quick as possible. He told me that they make everything in house, and he talked me out of the small plate and into the large plate.  Thank god, because even with the large plate, I not only finished it, but was tempted to lick the bowl. All of this while he set down little ramekins in front of me. Onion, lime, chiles de arbol, cilantro, lining them up on my scratched table. Obviously, I was at table six, as the napkin dispenser will attest.  Instead of making this place seem run down, it gave the place character, charm, a well-worn feeling.

If pressed to describe it, I would say goat is somewhere between pork and lamb.  It has the succulent, lush texture of pork, with a slight gaminess, but not the strong gaminess of lamb.  The consomme was tomato based, ultra savory, the perfect complement. I piled some goat on the tortilla, spooned some consomme on the top, sprinkled the onions, cilantro, a chile, a squeeze of lime.  It was exquisite. I could eat it every day.  I was so taken with it, I took a pound to go, so I could share it with Todd the next day.

I owe the neighbor that recommend this place a pie, because leaving, I felt that rare moment of extreme exhilaration, the excitement of finding a new favorite place. A trip here is what my friend Sabrina would qualify as “enjoying life.”  So I will be back any time my travels take me near Midway, and even sometimes when they don’t.  And I will take a pound to go.  At least.

side note – the funniest thing I read about Birrerias, on wikipedia: “A common icon in birria restaurants (birrierías) is a pair of goat horns. The icon is used as a symbol of the purported aphrodisiac powers of birria, presumably tied to the general randiness of the goats from which it is made.”  Just FYI, I didn’t notice any upswing in randiness.  So if you’re planning a date night here, don’t bank on any results out of the ordinary.


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