If you follow online food trends to any degree, you’ve probably seen that birria, a slow-cooked Mexican goat stew, has grown in popularity in the United States over the past few years. And once the public’s interest in a given menu item hits critical mass, chain restaurants will all begin scrambling to recreate it. That’s why Taco Bell is currently rolling out some suspiciously birria-esque tacos in test markets and Qdoba has released a limited-time-only Brisket Birria option for its tacos, salads, nachos, bowls, and quesadillas.
Both birria and its beef equivalent, birria de res, are often served as quesabirria, a tortilla stuffed with cheese and birria then folded and griddled until the cheese is melted. It’s usually accompanied with a cup of consomme for dipping, which is why it’s such a social media darling—all that dunking makes for good food porn.
Qdoba’s version is a slow-cooked and finely shredded beef brisket in chiles and garlic, served up in both burritos and quesadillas—no consomme, however. Here are the details:
- The QuesaBirria Burrito has birria, queso, pico de gallo, salsa roja, cilantro lime rice, and black beans, rolled up in a flour tortilla.
- The QuesaBirria Quesadilla contains birria, queso, shredded cheese, and pico de gallo in a flour tortilla, which is then griddled and served with a side of guacamole and sour cream.
I was curious to see how well birria would fare at a chain like Qdoba, so I went to give it a shot (Qdoba provided the meal). I chose the quesadilla, since it was a closer representation to quesabirria than a burrito.
Brisket, as you probably know, can be a little tricky to cook sometimes—just ask Chipotle. You have to be patient with it and hit the right temperature so that the meat grows tender without going dry; there’s not a ton of wiggle room for mistakes. If you’re off, you’re stuck with tough, chewy meat, and for all that effort, it can be sorely disappointing if it turns out poorly.
Qdoba’s birria is spot-on, juicy, flavorful, moist, and full of beefy flavor. It doesn’t have the home-cooked quality of the birria I’ve enjoyed at family-owned restaurants in Chicago, but I have to say, it’s still excellent and evokes comfort food in a way that chains often fail to. There’s enough flavor to the meat that even the sour cream and guacamole served on the side become superfluous. If anything, the birria is slightly oversalted, but that’s something we see with most limited-time-only fast food promotions.
Skip the usual steak, chicken, or pork options on the menu; those will always be there for you as a standby. Try the birria instead, and don’t be surprised if you see other versions show up at similar restaurant chains. There’s a reason it’s so popular—the only thing I can’t figure out is why the rest of the world is just catching up to that fact now.