Birria tacos reign supreme in College Park at Mexican street-food spot Quesa Loco

Big dippers

Birria tacos reign supreme in College Park at Mexican street-food spot Quesa Loco
photo by Rob Bartlett

Even among the vast and varied field of local Mexican restaurants, Quesa Loco has a distinguishing hook. And it begins with, and ends up soaked in, gorgeous birria. Quesa Loco doesn't just lean into the famous brothy stew from Jalisco, they validate their nutty name and apply it to ramen and pizza. But even amid the playfulness, there's some deep, soulful tradition cooking here.

Quesa Loco, the restaurant, is the recent brick-and-mortar extension of the popular Orlando food truck of the same name. The relaxed eatery is in the tiny commercial strip on the College Park end of Fairbanks that also houses local favorite Mediterranean Deli. Inside, their spot is festive without frills, with an order counter and an airy dining space.

Thanks to its current popularity, the term "street food" is almost stretched beyond meaning — but Quesa Loco's street spirit is legit. Case in point, their Mexican street corn: huge full-cob elotes heavily dusted in your choice of crumb coating, from traditional cotija cheese ($5.50) to food-porn toppings like Flamin' Hot Cheetos, regular Cheetos, or Takis in blue or red ($6.25). A stoner gourmet's fantasy, indeed. The corn's also available in a cup as esquite ($5), also with the above toppings ($5.50), but never in human history has corn ever been more pleasurable off the cob.

Now, on to the birria, which is beef-based at Quesa Loco. As the house specialty, the consommé is offered alongside most of the main dishes as a dip. The birria here is a zesty, slightly spicy broth slicked with that signature red oil. Whichever handheld food you choose, one dunk into this sexy broth and you'll have a thing of glorious succulence.

The best one-stop tour of Quesa Loco's forte is the birria platter ($17.50), a gluttonous spread that includes one quesabirria taco, one birria red taco, one birria Tijuana-style taco, one birria mulita and, of course, a large side of birria consommé. The platter features braised birria beef as the filling, but other choices like pastor, chorizo or chicken are offered if you order items individually.

All tortillas on the tacos and mulita are griddle-crisped to be a beautiful textural foil to the dip, and all come dressed traditionally with cilantro and onion. Accompaniments include lime wedges and two kinds of tasty hot salsas.

If you go à la carte, do the quesabirria taco or mulita. What makes them a little extra is the mozzarella cheese, which provides melted luxury inside and crisped perfection on the outside. It's at once comforting and opulent. For a fresher bite, go with the Tijuana-style taco for its bright guacamole zing.

click to enlarge Birria tacos reign supreme in College Park at Mexican street-food spot Quesa Loco
photo by Rob Bartlett

If you're especially hip to the magic of dunking, the birria torta ($13.50) is the ultimate. The French ain't got shit on this dip sandwich. This true Mexican hero stuffs birria beef into a soft, plump, delicately toasted roll that sops up that divine consommé better than any taco.

Inside, it's fresh with onions, cilantro, tomato and the hot pop of raw jalapeño slices. Making it all deluxe, the griddled cheese once again does double duty as gooey and crispy.

Deepening their Mexican cred, the spice extends into the desserts. Even the fruit cup ($8) comes in sweet or spicy. The mangonada ($8) I had was a crazy fiesta of a sundae featuring lots of lovely and light mango sorbet topped with fresh mango chunks. But the garnishes are where it gets uniquely Mexican. The drizzle, tamarindo stick, spoon candy and chili pepper powder-covered lollipop introduce flavors of chamoy, Tajin and tamarind to edge all the sweetness with some bracing salt and spice. It's a palate play that's heady and effective.

To quench, they offer huge cups of aguas frescas ($4) in a handful of flavors that change daily. The mango one I had was fresh and wonderfully natural. The horchata ($4) was also solid.

While birria tacos are old hat on the West Coast, they're still catching fire here. Now with a full restaurant, Quesa Loco is pushing hard to be the style's leading Prometheus in Orlando. Their deliciously fun dunkables are what you get when you balance Mexican heritage and young street flair like this.

Location Details

Quesa Loco

971 W. Fairbanks Ave., Orlando College Park

321-972-4503

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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