Birria, the slow-cooked lamb, goat, or beef Mexican stew that’s become known to many as 2020’s most proliferated taco trend, has hit Uptown New Orleans. Secret Birria is now open at 323 Octavia Street four days a week, serving birria de res tacos, birria ramen, and birriaritos. But the new, not-quite-secret restaurant is operating under a veil of mystery to, as its owner contends, let “the food speak for itself.”
Until recently, Metairie’s family-run Mawi Tortillas was New Orleans’s primary destination for birria tacos, save for a couple of pop-ups. The savory, chile-laden stew originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco and eventually traveled north to Tijuana, where it took the form of a street taco — made with beef and often griddled with cheese. From there it migrated to Los Angeles and made its way across the U.S., where it now sees popularity in the Bay Area, New York, Austin, Atlanta, and more. Secret Birria has been quietly operating since November 2020, said the owner, who requested to be anonymous — a move only heightening the “secret” part of the birria spot’s identity. When asked who was the brainchild behind Secret Birria, “Team SB,” as they called themselves, told Eater: “Inspired by the great luchadores of Mexico, the owner prefers to mask his identity and focus on the food. In other words — we let our food speak for itself.”
“The owner believes his identity is irrelevant — the food is the star of the show and we’d like to keep it that way,” Team SB said after further probing. When asked how Secret Birria came about, they said that in recent years, the owner took a “huge interest” in the food truck scene in Los Angeles and Houston, and particularly in birria food trucks. “He soon became enamored with the birria concept and knew he had to bring it to his hometown of New Orleans,” they said.
The applicant behind an occupational business license permit for 323 Octavia St. in 2020 was DR Foods, and there are no Louisiana business filings under the name “Secret Birria.” As with many food trends and local pop-ups, Secret Birria seems to have gained a following via Instagram, where a masked man makes occasional appearances in photos (his cat, however, is unmasked).
The menu consists of beef birria — slow-cooked for over five hours in consomme, according to the restaurant — in three forms: tacos topped with mozzarella, onion, and cilantro on a flour tortilla and served with a side of consomme for dipping; in a burrito with rice, beans, pepper sauce, white queso, onion, and cilantro and served with the dipping sauce; and in a bowl of ramen. There’s also queso and cracklins, roasted shishito peppers, fried fish tacos, and a chicken burrito.
Secret Birria is a takeout operation, with online ordering available for scheduled pickups between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. There’s no room to hang inside, but there are benches out front for waiting and a handful of outdoor tables on the side of the building, where staff call orders by number to be picked up from a takeout window. The staff consists of six people, Team SB said (though only the owner is anonymous). While many customers may not feel impelled to identify the owner of a restaurant before trying its food, Secret Birria’s mysterious ownership will surely spark curiosity in some — around why, beyond thinking it unimportant to the food, the proprietor chooses to remain anonymous.
Secret Birria is open at 323 Octavia Street Thursday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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