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Agave Birrería chases the American internet’s dream

From an Encinitas gas station, a local taco shop brand pivots red

Quesabirria tacos from Agave Birrería
Quesabirria tacos from Agave Birrería

Birria — a Mexican dish of shredded goat or beef, stewed in a broth warmed by chili peppers and adobo spices — has been around for hundreds of years. But only since the foodie internet got a hold of it in 2019 has it become part of the American dream.

Place

Agave Birrería

865 Orpheus Ave, Encinitas

In the short time since it started trending, scores of entrepreneurs nationwide have simultaneously realized their life’s ambition includes selling birria. Today, it shows up in a wide variety of places, and configurations. It’s now possible to find birria ramen, pizza, lasagna, and bao. A current Google search tells me that relatively traditional birria shops recently landed in such far-from-Mexico locales as Granite Falls, North Carolina and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Meanwhile, in Canada, they’ve apparently adapted the recipe to make the stuff with goose meat.

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An Encinitas gas station has a convenience store on one side, a birrería on the other.

In San Diego, we’ve been fortunate to have access to birria for ages, whether we’ve taken advantage or not. But that doesn’t mean the trend hasn’t rolled over us, too. If I didn’t pace myself, I might be writing about a new birria restaurant or food truck opening every other week. As it stands, I’ll probably spend the length of 2022 trying to catch up to with the new spate of new birria spots, the way I spent 2021 eating Nashville hot chicken.

Merchandise, because people like to wear their birria devotion

My latest attempt to keep up brought me to North County, to a gas station in Encinitas. Sitting there, behind the pumps, one edge of the obligatory convenience mart has been sealed off to make room for a little counter restaurant with big birria vibes. Step into Agave Birrería, and the first thing you hit is a merch display that offers to let customers share their birria devotions with branded coffee mugs, water bottles, and t-shirts.

Kotia Jr., a few blocks from Agave on Coast Highway

This might have prompted me to doubt Agave’s bona fides, except mounted on the wall among the merchandise was the framed story of a local paper, which reported that Agave Birrería, which opened in spring 2021, is owned by the same guy as another taco shop down the road: Kotija Jr., over on Coast Highway at Leucadia Boulevard.

Kotija Jr. has been around longer than Yelp, and boasts four locations around North County. Sure enough, when I compare the menus of the two shops, they line up almost exactly. When I order a fish taco at each location, they are virtually identical. The chief difference, as far as I can tell, is that Kotija Jr. doesn’t serve birria.

A fish taco from Kotija Jr., also served at its sister birreria

This is where the birria craze has gotten us: even established Mexican restaurateurs are cashing in on the trend.

I can’t attest to how successful the Agave venture has been, though it sure looks like a shrewd move. However, the birria itself provides proof of concept. I might disagree with the signs at Kotija Jr. declaring its Baja fish taco to be the best in San Diego, but Agave’s birria is everything the birria-seeking masses long for. It’s savory, it’s tender, it’s got enough spice to be interesting but not so much to frighten off the uninitiated. When you order the tacos, their corn tortillas have been dipped, so they take on the reddish tint of birria consomé. Importantly, they’re served with a small tub of the broth, so you may dip each taco again, ahead of each bite. Or guzzle it down straight, as God, and the internet, intended.

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Quesabirria tacos from Agave Birrería
Quesabirria tacos from Agave Birrería

Birria — a Mexican dish of shredded goat or beef, stewed in a broth warmed by chili peppers and adobo spices — has been around for hundreds of years. But only since the foodie internet got a hold of it in 2019 has it become part of the American dream.

Place

Agave Birrería

865 Orpheus Ave, Encinitas

In the short time since it started trending, scores of entrepreneurs nationwide have simultaneously realized their life’s ambition includes selling birria. Today, it shows up in a wide variety of places, and configurations. It’s now possible to find birria ramen, pizza, lasagna, and bao. A current Google search tells me that relatively traditional birria shops recently landed in such far-from-Mexico locales as Granite Falls, North Carolina and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Meanwhile, in Canada, they’ve apparently adapted the recipe to make the stuff with goose meat.

Sponsored
Sponsored
An Encinitas gas station has a convenience store on one side, a birrería on the other.

In San Diego, we’ve been fortunate to have access to birria for ages, whether we’ve taken advantage or not. But that doesn’t mean the trend hasn’t rolled over us, too. If I didn’t pace myself, I might be writing about a new birria restaurant or food truck opening every other week. As it stands, I’ll probably spend the length of 2022 trying to catch up to with the new spate of new birria spots, the way I spent 2021 eating Nashville hot chicken.

Merchandise, because people like to wear their birria devotion

My latest attempt to keep up brought me to North County, to a gas station in Encinitas. Sitting there, behind the pumps, one edge of the obligatory convenience mart has been sealed off to make room for a little counter restaurant with big birria vibes. Step into Agave Birrería, and the first thing you hit is a merch display that offers to let customers share their birria devotions with branded coffee mugs, water bottles, and t-shirts.

Kotia Jr., a few blocks from Agave on Coast Highway

This might have prompted me to doubt Agave’s bona fides, except mounted on the wall among the merchandise was the framed story of a local paper, which reported that Agave Birrería, which opened in spring 2021, is owned by the same guy as another taco shop down the road: Kotija Jr., over on Coast Highway at Leucadia Boulevard.

Kotija Jr. has been around longer than Yelp, and boasts four locations around North County. Sure enough, when I compare the menus of the two shops, they line up almost exactly. When I order a fish taco at each location, they are virtually identical. The chief difference, as far as I can tell, is that Kotija Jr. doesn’t serve birria.

A fish taco from Kotija Jr., also served at its sister birreria

This is where the birria craze has gotten us: even established Mexican restaurateurs are cashing in on the trend.

I can’t attest to how successful the Agave venture has been, though it sure looks like a shrewd move. However, the birria itself provides proof of concept. I might disagree with the signs at Kotija Jr. declaring its Baja fish taco to be the best in San Diego, but Agave’s birria is everything the birria-seeking masses long for. It’s savory, it’s tender, it’s got enough spice to be interesting but not so much to frighten off the uninitiated. When you order the tacos, their corn tortillas have been dipped, so they take on the reddish tint of birria consomé. Importantly, they’re served with a small tub of the broth, so you may dip each taco again, ahead of each bite. Or guzzle it down straight, as God, and the internet, intended.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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