Juicy meat. Melted cheese. A flaky tortilla. All dipped in a chile-laden red soup.
Birria tacos have recently trailblazed the Gainesville food truck scene thanks to 34-year-old Lake City resident Santos Hernandez, who has run the food truck Mexi Cocina for two years.
The chile-seasoned tacos are a Mexican dish traditionally cooked with mutton and served with a broth stew called consomé. The tacos, which are tinged red when soaked in the soup, have made waves on the West Coast and have popped up in Miami and Tampa eateries as more people are enticed to try the tacos they’ve seen ripped apart in social media photos or on TikTok.
Mexi Cocina’s debut in Gainesville also means residents could get their first taste of the red taco food trend.
“We’re charging $11 for three tacos, which are loaded with a handful of braised beef, pickled cabbage and a blend of mozzarella, pepper jack and other cheeses,” Hernandez said. “It actually sits on a bed of rice … so they can add the rice to the broth and then finish eating it.”
Each week, the food truck stakes out at different locations, such as High Springs Brewing Company, North Florida Regional Medical Center and Cypress & Grove Brewing Company.
“The meat is super tender on the inside, and you get that extra dunk of flavor from the consomé,” said 29-year-old Gainesville resident Kris Hall. “It’s a great experience.”
Hall interacts with a lot of people while on duty as a Gainesville police officer, so she’s grateful to not need a server and to be able to socially distance when she eats Mexi Cocina with her partner at Cypress & Grove.
She said she first fell in love with birria tacos while at a rugby tournament in Mexico City. When she saw the Mexi Cocina birria tacos through the Eat GNV Facebook page, she asked on the food truck’s page if it was ever going to stop in Gainesville. The next week, Mexi Cocina arrived at Cypress & Grove, which is in walking distance for Hall.
“That was really nice of him and hopefully it’s paid off for him,” she said.
Lindsey Johnson, 41, eats at Mexi Cocina about every week, most often when it’s parked by First Magnitude Brewing Company.
Johnson decided to try the birria taco after Hernandez recommended it to her when she was ordering.
“The novelty of it, trying something new, and from a chef that I trust was definitely worth the experiment,” Johnson said. “With all the toppings it's a good meld of different flavors.”
Mexi Cocina strives to use locally-sourced vegetables from places like Swallowtail Farm in Alachua and the Haile Plantation Farmers Market along with flavorful seasonings to deliver the taste of quality Mexican cuisine, Hernandez said.
He said his mom taught him how to make birria tacos, and he’s formed his cooking style from working in the kitchens of several restaurants over the years.
“The work has always been hard, but to me, it’s always been in the direction that I wanted to go to,” he said. “The end result is great, putting out a great product and knowing that your hands had something to do with that.”
Birria tacos can also be found at Foc'sle, Cry Baby's and Tab's Lunch Box.