Braised meat. Melted cheese. A soft tortilla. A chile-spiked broth.
These are the components that invite Mexican-food fans to ecstasy. There’s a reason that birria tacos have excited diners for the past couple of years. For centuries, birria existed as a goat dish, sometimes made with lamb. Serving it in a consommé likely began in the 1950s. Cheesy birria tacos? They’re almost always made with beef, and they have erupted into a full-blown trend that equals their deliciousness.
For those new to the game, think of them as a more flavorful (and perhaps even more indulgent) Mexican-birthed take on the French dip sandwich. Not all birria dishes are the same, but these are my favorites in NoVA.
Service can be chaotic at Chefscape, where this business has its ghost kitchen. If it takes a while to get your tacos, just know it’s worth the wait. The lightly tangy broth is just hot enough to singe an eater’s lips. The grill-warmed double tortillas are dyed red with it, and they burst with stretchy cheese and lots of beef. Get a platter to experience the savory refried beans and rice, too. 1602 Village Market Blvd. SE, Ste. 120, Leesburg
This cheerful restaurant has made its name with its wide range of birria dishes. Yes, there are the anything-but-basic cheesy tacos, but the broth, among the spiciest we’ve found, also provides lubrication to make everything from mulitas to pizza to burritos go down even easier than they would on their own. 9792 Center St., Manassas
Chef-owner Mackenzie Kitburi’s small chain originated in Maryland before hitting DC. Now, it’s inside Epiq Food Hall, turning out the juiciest birria tacos around. They burst with the chile-flavored braising liquid as soon as a diner bites in. But don’t let that stop you from dipping into even more of the deep-red broth. 14067 Noblewood Plz., Woodbridge
Most tortillas at this small, local chain from chef Mike Cordero are a signature deep, rock ’n’ roll blue. But not the ones that surround a juicy mound of beef birria. The broth-stained corn tortillas are all the better to show off the deep red of the cinnamon-suffused consommé. Not feeling tacos after all? Get a bowl of birria ramen instead. 6550 Little River Tpk., Alexandria; 1501 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 1116 W. Broad St., Falls Church