Apr 3, 2023 - Business

Cafe Rio's limited-time birria tacos are a must-miss

Cafe Rio's birria tacos. Photo: Kim Bojórquez

Last week I tried Cafe Rio's new birria tacos.

The big picture: In recent years, the popularity of birria has exploded nationwide. It's a savory, slow-cooked Mexican beef dish that's flavored with dried guajillo and arbol chiles. It's served with a dipping broth called consomé.

  • Universal Studios and Disneyland now offer birria tacos at their parks.
  • Last year, Thrillist reported that Taco Bell was testing a "Grilled Cheese Dipping Tacos with Seasoned Beef" in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, and Nashville, Tennessee.

Yes, but: Just because it's on the menu doesn't mean it's worth ordering.

  • Birria takes several hours to properly cook in a flavor-packed broth to tenderize the tough cuts of beef. The premise of fast food is antithetical to a slow-cooked meal.
  • And yet, that hasn't stopped quick-serve restaurants, like Cafe Rio, from whipping up their own versions.

Zoom in: Ads for the franchise's new, menu item feature a chef from Torreón, Mexico preparing the dish with tomatoes, onions, cinnamon, garlic and dried chiles — and it seemed promising.

  • As a fan of the Utah eatery's meat options — especially their sweet pork barbacoa and shredded beef — I had high hopes for the birria.
  • "This new offering was tested last spring in select Nevada and Arizona markets, where customers raved about the unique product and delicious flavor," according to a news release on the limited-time dish that noted the cooking process was "hours-long."

The verdict: The tacos I ordered were filled with beef, shredded cheese, as well as pickled onions and jalepeños on a handmade corn tortilla, served with consomé and topped with fresh cilantro and onions.

  • After I received my order, it didn't take long for the tortilla to deteriorate, making it a flimsy vessel to bring the rest of the ingredients together to eat.
  • While the tenderness of the meat was spot on, I quickly spit it out after biting into multiple whole peppercorns, typically used to season the broth.
  • By itself, the consomé, used for dipping, lacked flavor and seemed overly sweet.

The bottom line: I'll stick with Cafe Rio's sweet pork.


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