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The pictures seem to say it all: plump tacos dripping from flaming orange fat, quesadillas with melted cheese, tangles of ramen noodles and crushed birria de res (beef braised in a chilli-tipped broth) drowning in a spicy consomé.
Wait – ramen noodles !?
You read that right: the latest food trend – driven in part by social media photos – is a Birria style that originated in Tijuana, Mexico. Made famous on the streets of Los Angeles and has since spread throughout the US. Part of the fun is the huge amount of cheese gluing Birria tacos, quesadillas, and tortas together. The other part comes from the disrespectful addition of ramen noodles to a fusion that hasn’t caused as much buzz since Roy Choi consumed the City of Angels with Korean tacos in 2008.
Kiké’s makes decadent birria quesadilllas.
While all of these photos look tempting, you can’t taste a birria on Instagram. Fortunately, Denver’s food trucks weren’t slept in style, and one in particular made Birria de Res a specialty. Kikés Red Tacos have been parked on 3010 Speer Boulevard (in the Old Liquor parking lot) for three months, serving a menu dedicated to the many permutations of beef birria.
Traditional birria comes from the state of Jalisco and is often made with chivo (goat). However, in Tijuana a separate style was developed with beef as the primary protein. The meat is cooked slowly until it crumbles and is often served in a bowl with the consomé scooped on top or with tortillas and the broth on the side to slurp.
Birria de res has more fat than Birria de chivo, and the bright orange slick on the Consomé invites you to take a dip. The new wave of Birria suppliers dips corn and flour tortillas into the fat first, giving the resulting tacos and quesadillas a vibrant hue – and a dash of flavor. Kiké’s sells straight-line birria tacos with a side of consomé, or you can get quesa tacos (often called quesabirria by other vendors) if you’re looking for a cheese, chilli, and beef combo.
But don’t go without an order of Birria Ramen, which Kiké’s serves with a sticky wad of white cheese. It’s not particularly frothy compared to some versions as the pasta soaks up much of the liquid, but the heat and flavor of the consome come through.
Find Kiké’s on the northwest corner of Federal and Spear Boulevards.
While Los Angeles seems like a believable birthplace for this culinary mashup, many sources point to celebrity chef Antonio de Livier, who runs restaurants in Guadalajara and Mexico City, as the inventor. But Tapatio (the hot sauce company) launched its own line of instant ramen noodles in a cup (that aren’t specifically birria-themed) in early 2018, and many food truck operators are using this brand as their Basis for their Birria ramen. Combine your own consomé and beef with Tapatios noodles and seasoning package.
Kiké’s isn’t the only Birria de Res supplier in town. You can also find versions of La Unica Birria de Res (a food truck on 5000 Crown Boulevard next to Montbello High School), Ronin Kitchen (a ghost kitchen for deliveries only), and Panchos Birria y Mas (which is parked at 6400 West Alameda Avenue in Lakewood ).
Where did you find great Birria de Res, Quesabirria and Birria Ramen? Let us know in the comments or tag your social media photos with @denverwestword and #denverwestword.
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Mark Antonation is the Westword Food & Drink Editor. He began eating and writing about every restaurant on Federal Boulevard and continues to cover the diverse international food scene on Metro Denver and the city’s rapidly changing dining landscape. Mark was recognized as an Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association in 2018.