El Pollo Loco’s birria menu is back! Last year, El Pollo Loco introduced three birria beef dishes to its menu and it was by all accounts a hit… for almost everyone but Team Uproxx. We won’t lie to you, we weren’t the biggest fans of El Pollo Loco’s birria when it first rolled out last year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the United States’ recent love affair with quesabirria, but I felt like El Pollo Loco failed to capture what makes birria de res so special and addicting.
That’s why we were excited when El Pollo Loco announced they were bringing back the menu with some significant tweaks and improvements based on the critique they received (*cough* YOU’RE WELCOME *cough*). From now until June 28th, the Birria menu is back across all El Pollo Loco locations and includes three boxed meals: Birria Crunchy Taco Box, Birria Grilled Burrito Box, and the Birria Overstuffed Quesadilla Box. All three meals include a side of chips, salsa, and of course, a cup of warm birria de res consomé.
Let’s taste them!
El Pollo Loco’s New Birria Menu
Before we dive into the tasting notes of each dish, let’s talk about the improvements! The reworked recipe includes changing the tortilla shell of the taco, and a new consomé recipe that offers, in El Pollo Loco’s words, “more flavor.”
Both of these improvements are greatly appreciated, let’s talk about the taco first. The original birria taco had a light and crispy tortilla shell, there wasn’t any problem with it, per se, until you dipped it in the consomé. It was just a bit too thin, after a few dips the taco would start to fall apart into the dip. Now the taco shell is crispier, with a noticeably darker color, and best of all — double layered.
There are two fried tortillas in this taco — it’s double layer and yet not at all a chore to bite into or chew through. There is something special about featuring two thin-ish tortillas and the way the birria de res juice gets stuck in the crevices — it not only holds up to multiple dips better than the OG version, but it holds more of that flavor, and that’s my favorite feature.
The taco comes with a tomatillo salsa that is both tart and spicy. A great example of what tomatillo salsa can be and a huge win for the genre of “fast food sauces.”
The consomé recipe has definitely been improved, even by sight alone. I can see more onions and spices floating around in the rich red juice. Flavorwise, it’s a lot richer, with an earthy base, intense savory notes, and a slightly spiced finish. El Pollo Loco is generous with just how much they give you, too — there is more consomé here than two tacos and a bag of chips worth, so you’ll find yourself looking for things to dip into it (make some quesadillas when you’re back at home!).
The burrito includes beef birria, cheese, sour cream, rice, beans, cabbage, onion, and cilantro, wrapped in a big flour tortilla. Or at least, it’s supposed to. Mine didn’t have any cabbage for whatever reason. I didn’t mind the exclusion, but just keep in mind that my experience is of the burrito without an ingredient.
It was good, but my least favorite of the three. I appreciate the grilled surface of the burrito, but the ratio is all off, there is too much rice, not enough beans, and definitely not enough beef birria. I’m also not sure if this burrito really needs sour cream. I’m already dipping it in the super flavorful consomé — so I found myself a tad unclear of what the sour cream added to the experience (I could see the creaminess being nice, in a more well-balanced burrito).
Having said all that, it’s hard to hate on a dip-able burrito! At the end of the day, it’s still an unbeatable combination of meat, cheese, beans, and rice, and you get to dip it into a sauce that brings in even more savory beefy flavor.
Now let’s all about the “Overstuffed Quesadilla.” True to its name, it’s f*cking huge. But don’t call it ‘overstuffed,’ it’s properly stuffed! Layers of beef birria, chunks of ripe avocado, cheese, onions, and cilantro are folded into a giant tortilla, and grilled.
Due to its hexagonal shape, it is the hardest to dip, but the best combination of flavors (they should sear it with cut lines — to make it easy to pull apart). Grassy, buttery, creamy and nutty top notes are added to the dish thanks to the chunks of fresh avocado in this thing, which pair nicely with the savory beef and the consomé dip.
The way this tortilla soaks up the juice allows each bite to be an explosion of flavor. The only issue is navigating your way around the shape in order to keep the quesadilla from becoming too wide and hard to dip. At one point I stopped dipping and started pouring the consomé straight into the quesadilla. It was messy but worth it!
The Bottom Line:
El Pollo Loco made some smart strategic changes to its birria consomé and beef tacos, allowing for more flavor with each dip. As it stands, it’s our favorite new fast food innovation of the year (and the menu has easily the best beef taco in all of fast food), and that is saying a lot in a year that has given us new McDonald’s burgers, and a fajita quesadilla from Chiptole.
It’s a winner, but it’s only available for a limited time — so get its before its gone!
Find your nearest El Pollo Loco here.