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Food and Drink

Alaska’s food scene sees a burst of birria, the Mexican dish lighting up social media

Tamara Stallworth prepares quesabirria tacos on Friday, March 19, 2021. Stallworth and her husband Ladarius own AK House of Birria, which is operating out of a commercial kitchen until their food truck arrives, which they expect will happen in April. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

When Ladarius Stallworth and his wife first learned about birria while watching the Cooking Channel, they decided to make it for themselves.

“It was pretty good and I told her, ‘We should start selling this stuff,’ ” Stallworth said.

Nearly four months later, the two are doing exactly that through their new business venture, AK House of Birria, where they serve birria nachos, fries and empanadas, among other birria-inspired recipes.

Birria is a flavorful meat-based stew that originates from the Mexican state of Jalisco and is usually made with chiles, spices and goat meat, although variations include beef, pork and fish. Tacos made with birria meat are distinct: They’re often served with the broth — or consomme — on the side for dipping.

The dish’s profile has been rising, in Alaska and beyond: With more than 495 million views on TikTok, #birria has taken over the social media platform in recent months. It has also saturated the Alaska food scene, from birria grilled cheeses to keto birria hot dogs, and posts devoted to birria consistently crop up in at least one popular Facebook group devoted to Anchorage restaurants.

At AK House of Birria, the birria is made with beef. But Stallworth said he and his wife — who are currently working out of a commercial kitchen in Midtown Anchorage — want to offer goat once the food truck they purchased is up and running, hopefully by the summer.

The growth of their business has been organic, Stallworth said. Facebook has been their primary platform to reach new customers.

“People are trying our food and telling other people, ‘This is the place to go to,’ ” Stallworth said. “It’s been really busy for us.”

Quesabirria tacos from AK House of Birria. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

AK House of Birria isn’t the only Alaska eatery serving the popular dish. In Juneau, Zerelda’s Bistro sold out of their birria ramen last month. Another eatery in Southeast, Devil’s Hideaway, has its own taco take using slow-roasted brisket.

Fuego Birria, a pop-up restaurant located inside the Alaska Bagel Restaurant, has been serving up everything from birria ramen to mulitas, similar to quesadillas. The restaurant is temporarily closed, but they plan to be open again in time for Cinco De Mayo.

Chef Evan Dunaway of The Lone Chicharron in Seward serves beef quesabirria — pairing savory beef and melted cheese — and a birria breakfast burrito for their Sunday special. He remembers reading an article about the quesabirria scene in the San Francisco area back in 2019.

“It seems like us being up here, (Alaska is) always a little late to the party,” Dunaway said.

On Dimond Boulevard in South Anchorage, Elim Cafe serves its own birria meals, from tacos to nachos and even burgers. Armi Abellere, manager of Elim Cafe, said they added those items to their menu last September.

“It’s the keto taco — that’s our main seller here,” Abellere said. “With the birria ... we made it into all keto options.”

The cafe also serves a keto hot dog, topped with birria beef, nacho cheese, pico de gallo, sauteed onion and fried garlic.

Other restaurants in Anchorage serving birria include Xalos Burrito Express, which has birria quesadillas and burritos. Melt, a grilled cheese food truck, sells a birria-topped sandwich.