Review: Tacos El Cochi serves game-changing birria tacos

Jay Keyes (Left), with Abel and Yasmin of Tacos El Cochi (Center), and Omar Spitani (right), behind pot of birria

Birria time! El Cochi’s over-stuffed taco dorados are championship material, and my getting the word out does me no favors, as their lines are deservedly getting long. Their dorados and mulitas are mammoth and chock-full of their game-changing Tijuana-style birria de res. The birria is less “goat birria adapted for beef” than its own thing, spiced to complement the robust texture and rock-me-to-sleep rich beefiness of the meat.

My friend and fellow tacophile Omar Spitani and I had discovered their operation together while driving through La Puente a couple of winters ago on an L.A. taco run. They were not on our list of taco stands to hit up, or even on our radar: it was 7:30am, we were hungry, and there wasn’t a line. Despite their porcine logo and name, there were no pork products served at El Cochi, just different combinations of beef birria, cheese, and tortillas. And that turned out to be just fine.

Immediately afterwards, we were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. For six months in isolation I obsessively thought about El Cochi’s beef birria like a patient in a methadone clinic craving his next score. You know the taste you get from a well-marbled steak pulled off a ripping hot grill at a high-end steakhouse? Hold that thought and imagine the essence of that served to you as firm chunks of braised beef that are still tender enough to chew with your lips. In Taco Dorado form, the beef and a handful of Monterey Jack cheese is tucked into a large corn tortilla that is pan-fried in chili-infused beef fat until the tortilla itself becomes crispy, its surface sizzling and charring ever-so-slightly. During this process, some pieces of birria fall off of the tortilla and crisp up directly on the pan before being folded back into the mixture. This is a happy accident.

Taco Dorado de Birria de Res. Photo by Jay Keyes.

During my self-quarantine, I experimented in my kitchen attempting to clone the birria recipe for personal use: guajillo chiles, California chiles, cloves, cinnamon, onions, oregano, cumin, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Birria is serious business, and my amateur-hour birria efforts did nothing to scratch the itch — my repeated failures reinforced that I needed to leave birria to the experts and that 2020 was definitely gonna be a bullshit year.

Indeed, 2020 continued to suck. But once I released myself from self-quarantine, I got back to El Cochi and they were ready for me, serving the same incredible tacos made with their beef birria. Where they started as a stand in La Puente, Omar and I now hit them up in a residential driveway in Pomona, which is actually a better setup for all, and worth the detour regardless if you’re in San Diego, L.A., or anywhere in-between.

Food/Décor/Service: 4.5/2.0/NA

Taco Scores: Taco Dorado de Birria de Res (99/100), Mulita de Birria de Res (96/100)

Jay Recommends: Taco Dorado de Birria de Res, Consomé

Tacos El Cochi221 E Grand Ave, Pomona, CA 91766; Saturday through Sunday from 7:00am-1:00pm; (323) 434-4211; IG @birrias_el_cochi (NOTE: this is an operation with fluctuating hours – you should check their IG/Instagram prior to going)

Birria de Res Quesatacos. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Birria de Res Quesatacos (Well Done). Photo by Jay Keyes.
Mulita de Birria de Res. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Proprietor Abel Chops his Birria de Res. Photo by Jay Keyes,
Pot of Birria de Res. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Consomé. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Salsa de Aceite. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Less Porcine Than You’d Think. Photo by Jay Keyes.
Tacos on the Plancha. Photo by Jay Keyes.