The owners of Birreria Reyes de Ocotlan are not a modest lot. The sign hanging over the door says, "la mejor birria del mundo" or "the best birria
in the whole world." Inside the white-tiled restaurant hangs a mounted goat head with a toothpick dangling from its mouth (a nod to the taming of the goat).
Birria is goat meat steamed for six hours in its own juices along with native dried chili peppers, including smoky anchos and a hint of cinnamon. This culinary alchemy converts what is traditionally a stringy, rangy meat into fall-off-the-bone tender protein. The meat and juice is then served with lime, cilantro and onions as a steamy, consomme-style broth or on top of fresh tortillas. Without a transatlantic passage or a world tour for comparison, the depth of the broth is at the very least as good as it gets in Chicago.
The restaurant's name pays homage to the restaurant's owners and culinary origin: Ocotlan is a region in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, where birria is a native dish, and Reyes is the name of the family who owns the joint. This isn't your typical taqueria; there are no tamales, burritos, or tortas, only the primal cuts of the goat including the head (cabeza) and tongue (lengua). The broth may be rich, but at $6 for a steaming bowl or pile of meat and tortillas, the price is not.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant