Salem diners have birria fever.
Traditional birria, from the Mexican state of Jalisco, is a braise of goat, beef or sometimes mutton, slow cooked with chilies and spices until the meat reaches a juicy, tender, nearly shredded consistency. Brick red-orange and deeply fortifying, it’s a dish that requires slow cooking to yield the richest results.
This homey dish has reached Internet food craze status in recent years. Los Angeles-based taco trucks started serving Tijuana-style birria de res, made with beef, in tacos, mulitas and quesadillas — now often listed as quesabirria — often with a cup of the beefy orange consomé alongside for dipping.
Using beef, which is fattier than goat, yields a stew with a slick of red-gold fat on the top. These entrepreneurs began dabbing a corn tortilla into this fat before frying and filling it with melty Oaxaca cheese (or mozzarella), shredded meat, onions and cilantro. The chili-infused fat gives birria tacos their signature red-orange look.
Once #birria got trending on Instagram, the dish took off. Birria ramen became a thing, then birria pizza, and even birria lumpia. Other entrepreneurs, including Portland’s La Taquiza Vegana, came up with jackfruit-based vegan versions.
The trend is now sweeping Salem. Here are 11 of our favorite places to find it.
Sancho’s Tacos and Grill
Launched in May 2019, Sancho’s Tacos was the first truck to bring the birria trend to the Salem area. I even named their birria dorado tacos, crisped on the grill before being showered with chopped onion and cilantro, as one of the 19 best things I ate in the Salem area in 2019. Owners Peter Mendez and Santiago Lopez spend a lot of time in the truck, but they both have day jobs, so, unlike many of Salem’s taco trucks, Sancho’s doesn’t have a permanent location. The best way to find them is to keep an eye on the business’ Facebook page for updates on where they’ll be popping up.
Information: Sancho’s Tacos & Grill (Facebook)
Los Temos Taqueria
Most of the birria you’ll find in Salem is made with beef, but if you’re after birria de chivo, made with goat, there’s one spot in Salem you need to visit. Portland road taqueria Los Temos specializes in the stew, which is served not as the cheesy quesabirria tacos you’ll see all over social media, but more traditionally, a caldo with handmade corn tortillas alongside.
Where: 7000 Portland Road NE
Phone: (503) 463-6822
Information: Los Temos Taqueria (Facebook)
Early last December a new food truck landed in the Commercial Street space that was previously home to Shawerma Owok. The Lopez family opened Don Chuy’s Tacos and began slinging tacos and mulitas on pressed-to-order tortillas along with weekly specials of homey dishes such as posole rojo and tamales. One of their dishes emerged as a fan favorite: a massive orange quesadilla, loaded with meat and stringy cheese, and served with a barrage of salsas. Called a pizza birria ($15), it’s so large they serve it in a pizza box with cups of fiery salsa verde and wedges of lime.
Where: 2955 Commercial Street SE
Fruity Mix Cafe
Among the best deals in Salem, Fruity Mix’s quesabirria tacos are generously proportioned and come with a cup of rich consome, grilled onions, charred serranos, and a few slices each of radish and cucumber. Ten bucks (cash only) buys you all of the above. It’s enough for two people to share, especially if you round out your order with a mangonada or another fruity treat. Owner Angelica Rosillo also debuted their version of a birria pizza, so if you’re feeding a group that’s the way to go.
Where: 1646 Clay St NE Salem
Phone: (503) 400-9053
Information: Fruity Mix Cafe (Facebook)
Birrieria La Capital
Los Peques Taqueria owner Jose Gonzalez and his family recently opened a second Portland Road food cart. Birrieria La Capital is Salem’s only eatery devoted entirely to birria. The menu includes quesabirria tacos, birria tortas, and a ramen noodle bowl loaded with birria, onion and cilantro. Their take on the birria pizza is slightly smaller than the version at Don Chuy’s, but it’s absolutely packed with meat. They also offer birria sopes, birria flautas, and loaded birria fries.
Where: 3260 Portland Road NE
Phone: (971) 273-6929
Dine in at Keizer restaurant Casamigos to try their take on quesabirria. Order their “queso birria” tacos and you’ll get three on a sizzling platter with a cup of rich consomme and a blistered jalapeno. Plus, the restaurant offers margarita flights.
Where: 5005 River Rd N, Keizer
Phone: (503) 393-1707
Information: Casamigos Keizer (Facebook)
Tucked into the same Twelfth Street shopping center as Fitts Seafood, one could easily miss Rancho Miramar if not looking for it and that would be a mistake. Owner Francisco Velasco’s long-cooked birria is particularly good. Rich, but not greasy, with an aromatic spice profile.
Where: 1555 12th Street Suite 140
Phone: (503) 339-7658
El Ranchero Market
Wednesday is the day to visit Lancaster Drive restaurant and supermarket in one, El Ranchero. That’s the day owners Diego and Itzel Sagastume offer griddled quesabrria tacos positively drooling with cheese. Though birria tacos aren’t included in the deal, visit on Tuesday instead for all you can eat tacos for $10.
Where: 2615 Lancaster Drive NE
Phone: (971) 600-3466
Tacos del Sur
Portland Road and Lancaster Drive are Salem’s birria hot spots. Tacos Del Sur, Diego Gonzalez’s casual taqueria just off Commercial Street, is one of the only places to find the dish in South Salem. Birria tacos (no cheese) are available daily, three for $7.50, or two quesabirria tacos (griddled with cheese) and a cup of consome is $10.
Where: 4683 Commercial St SE
Phone: (503) 371-6323
Information: Tacos del Sur (Facebook)
Birria dorado tacos, available for $3 each, are a popular lunch offering at this Lancaster Drive spot for tacos and tortas. Though none of Salem’s restaurants have committed to making a jackfruit version of birria, at Kike’s you can get a taco dorado made with beans instead of birria.
Where: 617 Lancaster Drive NE
Phone: (971) 719-2900
Information: Kike’s Taqueria (Facebook)
Another option for those in Keizer, bakery and grocery Plaza Morelia now offers quesabirria tacos in their cafe. Joining the pizza birria frenzy, the one at Plaza Morelia is topped with pico de gallo and crema. Both options, as well as the rest of the cafe menu, are available on DoorDash, too.
Where: 3391 River Rd N, Keizer
Phone: (503) 304-4356
Information: Plaza Morelia (Facebook)