EVERETT — The birria queso tacos at El Mariachi are, in a word, inhalable.
Let me explain: Two corn tortillas are bound by stretchy, melted cheese. While crisping up on a steaming griddle, the hybrid quesadillas are topped with more cheese, followed by slow-cooked brisket that’s as beautifully striated as it is juicy and tender. They are folded over in taco form and handed to you — three to an order — with chili oil for tongue-tingling warmth, creamy green sauce and consomé, which you are expected to ceremoniously dunk into over and over and over.
Your hands will get messy. You will fail to eat slowly and gracefully, but don’t you dare attempt civility with a fork and knife. After shredding through your trio, you will think about El Mariachi’s tacos for days (read: weeks) on end.
Luckily, birria fans will no longer have to hunt down the locally famous food truck. El Mariachi snagged a permanent space for a restaurant on Evergreen Way back in July. Their grand opening under regular hours is Saturday, but you can start chowing down Tuesday, beginning at 4 p.m.
El Mariachi’s brick-and-mortar is perfectly situated between a laundromat and a ferret rescue center. The bright space seats 24 and is decorated with posters and glowing signs that read “Don’t be self conchas” and “I hate tacos, said no Juan”. They are planning to add a mural as well.
I stopped by during their soft opening last week (“soft” is a flawed descriptor here, as social media photos showed a packed restaurant). Before walking inside, I knew I needed to order their bestseller.
Chef/co-owner Hugo Carranza first stews the brisket in a pot of chilis, herbs and spices for eight-plus hours, developing a deeply aromatic and complex flavor profile, much like slow-cooked barbecue. The meat and broth become slightly sweet and earthy from the cinnamon and cloves. Combine that with gooey cheese, tangy pickled red onions, cilantro and sturdy corn tortillas, and you’ve got yourself a taco that achieves just about every flavor element.
Carranza also brought over a cold cup of horchata, full of cinnamon and slightly sweet and just light enough to complement their rib-sticking food. They also sell Jarritos, of course.
El Mariachi offers both regular and queso tacos, as well as quesadillas, birria ramen, bowls and tortas (don’t overlook these loaded sandwiches, and yes, they hold their structural integrity even while dripping with birria). They also offer “keto tacos”, and though I’ve never understood the keto diet, I can absolutely get behind using crispy cheese as taco shells. Choose from birria (beef brisket), al pastor (pork) or soyrizo (vegan soy chorizo). Carranza said they are working to add a chicken option, as well as pork in green sauce and Chile Colorado, another low-and-slow-and-bold meat stew. Expect to see burritos in the near future, too.
Carranza and his wife, El Mariachi owner Viviana Garcia, moved to Washington a few years ago from Los Angeles, a well-known hub for taquerias, food trucks, carts and damn good regional Mexican food. That includes birria. Carranza remembers looking around Washington and thinking, “Where are the hot dog carts? The tamales?”
“We missed someone rolling down with tamales on a shopping cart,” Carranza said.
Since they couldn’t find any, they decided to start their own, Los Tamaahles, in 2019. The couple first sold tamales at pop-ups and breweries like Scuttlebutt in Everett. Then the pandemic hit and the world froze over. Businesses shut down and the streets were eerily quiet. They scaled down, selling tamales via online ordering and eventually added birria bowls on the side, to gauge customer interest.
After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, they eventually shifted to tacos full time and upgraded to a food trailer in late 2020. After a successful run at food festivals, breweries, pop-ups, events and more, Garcia and Carranza decided to retire their food trailer, much to the devastation of long-time fans when they made the announcement on Facebook. A day later, fans were guaranteed a taco-filled future when the couple announced plans to open a restaurant.
“In Mexican culture, birria is a really special dish,” Carranza said. “Every quinceañera, every wedding has them. It’s a special dish that we get to serve every day.”
El Mariachi Birria y Tacos
6100 Evergreen Way, Everett
Order ahead: 425-512-9024
Hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday, currently from 4 to 9 p.m., and beginning Sept. 17, 11 a.m. to close. Open for dine-in or takeout. Expect online ordering options soon.
Pricing: $3.50 for a single taco, $10 for a trio of regular tacos and $13 for queso tacos, tortas are $12 and birria ramen is $14.
Stay updated: www.facebook.com/lostamaahles