Ah, birria Ah, Jalisco
My first experience with birria was at least 20 years ago in a gigantic barn of a place just south of the Guadaljara airport called El Chololo. It’s been around for a very long time, is very famous and has seen every sort of celebrity and unknown diner from the youngest infant to centenarians. The place seats 1,000, or if it doesn’t, it’s gotta be pretty darn close. It’s open on most sides for an indoor/outdoor dining feel. There are strolling - altho’ dueling is more like it - mariachis and an outside playground to occupy the kids.
El Chololo serves one thing, and one thing only…birria de chivo (goat). You sit down and the waiters are there in the blink of an eye to take your drink order. What? You say you want that other famous Jalisco export, tequila? Here’s the bottle, we’ll put a little mark at the current level of the tequila, drink as much as you like and we’ll only charge you for what you drink. Such a deal! And then the food starts coming. The ubiquitous plate of minced white onions, minced serrano chiles and chopped cilantro. A big, steamy bowl of consume, and trust me, it doesn’t really matter how hot it is outside, the consume is worth every slurp. Customize it from the condiment plate. Along with the consume comes basket after basket of somewhat thick, fresh corn tortillas hot off the comal. Finally, the main event arrives, a burnished platter of various goat parts.
The birria at El Chololo is, of course, a secret family recipe. The chile-based rub is closely guarded and only a couple family members actually know the entire recipe. The goats are rubbed with the adobo then braised low and slow overnight. The last step is for the goat to be roasted, and basted with the braising liquid, in clay ovens for 2-3 hours. The results is goat meat that is succulent, incredibly tender and flavorful. It’s not the flavor-bomb you might expect. After all that cooking the chiles and other rub ingredients have mellowed, the goat has given up it’s inherent juiciness and it all somewho melds together to create a balance of flavors that is satisfying enough to make you think everything is right with the world.
The place jumps on weekends when multi-generational families come for the day to eat, drink, pay mariachis to play beloved family favorites and spend time with each other. We have nothing like this in the U.S. as far as I’ve been able to discover. It’s much quieter during the week but the food is much better on weekends when they’re operating like a well oiled machine and serving a huge amount of birria
Disclaimer…it’s been several years (i.e. 5+) since I’ve been to El Chololo. The above are recollections of my dining visits there and some of the research I did trying to find more information about how they made their birria. Cut me some slack if my memory exactly 100%
Sounds wonderful, now I’m very hungry!
I didn’t see this until yesterday but it made me want to point my car due south and start driving, sleep overnight in the car, and hit up one of the southernmost places on this list when they opened.