Quesabirria tacos at Aguachiles el Tamarindo.
Quesabirria tacos at Aguachiles el Tamarindo. Photo: Aguachiles el Tamarindo

Hailing from the state of Jalisco, Mexico, birria is succulent stewed meat, traditionally goat or lamb, that’s been simmered in a chili-laced consomé, served with tortillas and garnished with cilantro, onion and lime. But the latest Bay Area craze — quesabirria — comes from Tijuana by way of Los Angeles and is usually made with beef. For the dish, taqueros add a gooey layer of cheese to the bottom of a corn tortilla before crisping it up a la plancha, then generously dunking or soaking the taco in a red-tinted pool of its own braising liquid.

While devouring quesabirria on a regular basis may not be great for your waistband, it’s certainly good for your soul — especially during these trying times. Nosh has nailed down eight East Bay spots currently open for takeout (and some for outdoor dining) for you to satiate your cravings for these decadently delicious, beefy, cheesy tacos.

Aguachiles el Tamarindo

Although Aguachiles el Tamarindo is mostly known for its heaping seafood platters and tacos, it likes to diversify its surf offerings with a bit of turf. The quesabirria tacos ($4 each, $3 extra for consumé) at this cash-only stall — located in a decently-sized lot in Fruitvale — overflow in every sense of the word. Add a sprinkling of cilantro and onion to the top of your taco for a nice pop of freshness to the fat-rich bite — and don’t forget a squeeze of lime. Aguachiles is open for takeout, delivery (via UberEats and Doordash) and outdoor dining. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily. Aguachiles el Tamarindo, 3053 International Blvd. (between Derby and 31st avenues), Oakland

El Garage

El Garage gained a cult following for its sloppily gorgeous quesabirria after the owners, the Montano family, first started selling tacos — with or without cheese — from their driveway in Richmond. Last month, the Montanos opened their very own brick-and-mortar restaurant, but in an abundance of caution, have limited hours and an online scheduling system to prevent crowds. A plate of three quesabirria tacos is $12; a plate of three birria tacos (no cheese) is $9; and a side of consomé is $4. El Garage is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday through Sunday. Online ordering required, no walk-ups. El Garage, 1428 McDonald Ave. (at 15th Street), Richmond

The La Santa Torta food truck makes regular appearances at East Bay breweries, including Tiger's Taproom in Oakland.
La Santa Torta quesabirria tacos. Photo: La Santa Torta

La Santa Torta

Before the pandemic started, La Santa Torta’s eye-popping food truck was a regular sight at East Bay breweries, like Tiger’s Taproom in Jack London Square and East Brother Beer Co. in Richmond. But since shelter-in-place, La Santa Torta is mostly keeping to its main parking lot location: at 333 Broadway in Oakland, but it also makes appearances at the Costco in Richmond and some other pop-up spots. (Check Instagram for the truck’s upcoming appearances.) Its fun and funky menu includes dishes like birria noodles and elotes chidos (a bowl of corn mixed with mayo, lime juice, cotija cheese and topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), but La Santa Torta’s biggest draw is its tender, flavorful birria wrapped in a thick blanket of Oaxaca cheese. A plate of three quesabirria tacos are $12; throw in an extra $2 for a cup of consomé. Order online for quick pickup. La Santa Torta, 333 Broadway (at Fourth Street), Oakland

La Frontera Mexican Restaurant

One of the newest restaurants in Oakland to offer quesabirria is La Frontera, which opened in the Fruitvale in February, next door to La Frontera Nightclub. The taqueria has an entire section of its menu devoted to quesabirria and variations made with fajita chicken, carne asada, shrimp, al pastor and no meat at all (priced at $4 each, $5.25 for shrimp and $45 for a pack of 12). La Frontera offers online ordering for takeout and delivery; outdoor seating is also available. The restaurant is open daily at 9 a.m. La Frontera Mexican Restaurant, 4481 International Blvd. (at 45th Avenue), Oakland

Quesabirria tacos at La Grana Fish in Oakland.
La Grana Fish in Oakland is a popular weekend-only destination in Oakland. Photo: La Grana Fish

La Grana Fish

Though slated as a seafood restaurant in Oakland, La Grana Fish is a popular weekend-only destination to grab quesabirria with extra-oozy queso. (You might also like its birria ramen — a giant cup of noodles with birria meat in consomé and its loaded baked potatoes.) This spring, the taco truck moved to the Fruitvale, where it operates in a lot next to the Aloha Club. La Grana Fish is cash only. Hours are 10 a.m. until sold out, Friday through Sunday. (It often sells out around 4 p.m.) Call 510-612-5917 or 510-520-0561 for takeout orders, or order delivery via Doordash. La Grana Fish, 952 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland

Tacos El Patrón

Tucked in a tiny strip mall next to a gas station and lingerie store in Pleasant Hill (There’s also a second location in San Francisco.), Tacos El Patrón offers burritos, enchiladas, ceviche and mulitas, but it’s best known these days for its quesabirria. On Tuesdays, tacos are priced $1 less ($3, instead of $4 for quesabirria). El Patron can get extremely busy, so the restaurant recommends that diners call in takeout orders (925-822-3993) to avoid long wait times. Another pro tip: add a refreshing michelada or sangria to wash it all down. Hours are 10 a.m.  to 10 p.m., daily. Tacos El Patrón, 2290 Monument Blvd. (near Marcia Drive), Pleasant Hill

Quesabirria tacos at OG Tacos.
Cheesy, beefy quesabirria tacos at Los Originales Tacos, aka OG Tacos. Photo: Lauren Bonney

Los Originales Tacos de Birria

Specializing solely in birria, mobile vendor Los Originales (better known as OG Tacos) turns out an impressive number of quesabirria tacos from its two locations at Epidemic Ales in Concord and the Antioch Flea Market. OG Tacos offers quesabirria tacos with or without cheese ($3.75 and $3.25 each, respectively) and two types of consomé ($5.50 for regular and $7.50 for a version with meat) for extra dipping fun. Want more? Try the birria chilaquiles, birria salad and even a keto-friendly version without a tortilla (the meat is placed on a “skirt” of melted cheese). Walk-up orders are available, but best bet is to order online to schedule a pickup time. Epidemic Ales offers limited outdoor seating. OG Tacos parks from 3:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday and Friday, at Epidemic Ales, 150 Mason Cir. Unit J (near Bates Avenue), Concord; and 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Saturday, at Antioch Flea Market, 1201 W 10th St. (near L Street), Antioch

Taqueria El Mezcal

Three out of four Taqueria El Mezcal locations offer birria on the weekends (from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and boy are the portions generous. After gingerly dunking corn tortillas in consomé everything gets a layer of cheese on the flat top before being heaped with birria, cilantro, onion, and another dash of the chili-tinged broth ($4 each). Then, in an act of true brilliance, instead of folding it into a taco, another whole, cheesy, crispy tortilla is placed on top for a quesadilla-like creation. And you get a free side of consomé. All locations offer drive-thru, takeout and delivery (via UberEats and Doordash). Taqueria El Mezcal Hesperian, 18502 Hesperian Blvd. (near Bockman Road), San Lorenzo; Taqueria El Mezcal Lewelling, 5 E Lewelling Blvd. (between Ashland Avenue and Via Granada), Hayward; Taqueria El Mezcal San Pablo, 14260 San Pablo Ave., (between Road 20 and Purisima Street), San Pablo 

Lauren is a Bay Area freelance writer and editor specializing in all things lifestyle including travel, culture, fitness and food and drink. She has an incredible soft spot for cheese and is a firm believer...