Gerald Bustamante 8:34 a.m., May 24
Ambushed by Birria
It's around 1:30 p.m.
Walking through the barrio, and all the time being reminded of Tijuana itself. The street life, the food, the friends, the long late lunches.
It specially reminds me of it here on Beardsley, as I head down to the trolley.
View of New Mexico Cafe from National Avenue
Then, just as I'm crossing Newton, and passing the well-beloved New Mexico Café (1794 Newton Avenue)...
...I notice a little place attached like a caboose to its back end.
Has a sandwich board...
...a mural on the outside...
...a green tile roof, orange stucco front, and a cloth banner saying "Viva Birria."
Huh. Birria. Kind of stew. Suddenly think: Haven't had birria since Mercado Hidalgo in TJ. Goat meat. Loved it.
So I walk in to this yellow-and-gray room strewn with pictures from the Revolution.
Pancho Villa, charros with guns sitting on the cowcatcher of some old steam engine, Villa on horseback leading a column of rebels.
Victoria, the lady who's running the place says they have birria, but beef, not goat. "People are not so into goat on this side of the line," she says.
Beef? That's okay. I order the small ($5.50; large is $7.50).
"This is the most delicious birria north of the border," says Darlene. She and a bunch of friends from the Crosby Chiropractic clinic nearby are having lunch. Birria tacos ($1.75), "and these are the best tortillas."
Sergio, Jessica, Victoria, Stephanie, Bianca
I sit down at an old-fashioned pink-and-blue wooden booth, and Victoria brings the bowl of birria. A soup with shredded beef. But it's not as simple as it sounds. It has a real seductive taste. Complex, sort of winey. She brings the tray of chopped onions, sliced radishes, cilantro, and lemon wedges. I put 'em and squeeze 'em all in. Oh man. Such a treat.
Now Victoria brings the tortillas.
"And they also have the best tortillas," says Darlene. "The flavor..."
"That's because I dip them in the birria juices and beef drippings," says Victoria.
I swear. These tortillas do have a wicked flavor. So we're not in Mexico yet, but this might be the nearest thing right here. I'm coming back.
And I think it's going to be on a Tuesday.