MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) – A new taco trend has hit the streets in the Rio Grande Valley, and it is gaining popularity quickly.
People can be seen on any social media platform dipping their Birria tacos in a savory broth called ‘consomé.’
One RGV resident who has been selling them says it has been a success, and she has been substituting a surprising ingredient… the meat!
Birria originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco and has gained popularity all over the U.S. The flavor-rich meat stew was originally made from goat but has transformed over the years into a taco dish that can be made from chicken, beef, and even mushroom.
The trend has made its way to the Valley, with multiple taquerias now serving Birria tacos. However, the vegan rendition of the taco can only be found in McAllen, and it may be the only one of its kind south of San Antonio.
Victoria Garza is a cook at The Gremlin on 16th Street in downtown McAllen. The business has been open for two years, but Garza is a recent addition to the team. She prides herself on her ability to ‘veganize’ traditional dishes normally made from animal products, such as tamales and pot pies.
“I know my flavors are on point. With my tamales, they became very popular, and I think that’s why people trust my cooking because I’ve been cooking vegan for a long time,” said Garza.
She says working at The Gremlin has allowed her to experiment with vegan possibilities, and is grateful for the support she has received from the community and Owner/Chef Alyssa Cantu.
“What I like hearing is that they’re delicious and they happen to be vegan, and I think that a really good response,” said Cantu. “When you’re doing any kind of food, you know, like healthy food should taste good. So, I like when people say that, ‘oh, wow, it’s a good taco,’ period.”
The beer garden has different specials throughout the week, from a fried chicken sandwich on Wednesdays to pizza nights on Thursdays. Most recently, Garza has been showing off her skill on Taco Tuesday with her vegan Birria tacos, or as she calls them ‘Virria tacos,’ and selling them has not been difficult.
“Our Virria tacos have been a smash success. A lot of people have been asking for them, like almost every day we’ll get a phone call asking. I started that on a Saturday special and we sold out after just posting a couple of posts on social media. We ended up selling out like within 15 minutes and I made a second batch and we sold out of that pretty quickly after,” said Garza.
She says the inspiration for the dish came from a TikTok video and a fresh supply of phoenix oyster mushrooms.
“I was like, ‘what are we going to do with them guys? They’re gonna go bad, we got to do something.’ And someone had shared a video, like a little TikTok actually, on how to make vegan Birria… So, I used that recipe and kind of added our own Gremlin kick to it,” said Garza.
The dish comes with the consomé, diced onion, cilantro, and cabbage. Vegan cheese can also be added for an extra charge.
Garza has only been serving her Virria tacos for no more than three weeks, but she says they’ve been selling out since the first day they were introduced. After seeing the demand, Garza says they are now a permanent part of their Taco Tuesday menu, alongside their non-vegan pork belly tacos. Both tacos sell for $2.
“Street foods are really fun. People really like something you can like put on Instagram, like a plate that looks really yummy, that looks really good. And Birria is just one of those things that you see it everywhere now, you know over the summer, so its become really popular,” said Garza.
Customers ordering the Virria tacos are not necessarily all vegan says Garza. Many of them are surprised by the rich flavor and forget they are not eating meat. Garza encourages anyone to come to The Gremlin and enjoy some of her tacos with a beer.
The Gremlin is open, with outdoor seating. They are closed Monday’s and open Tuesday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. They can be reached through social media and are located at 322 S 16th Street, McAllen, Texas.