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Very Important Taco: The Birria Tacos at El Jardin

How executive chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins roasts these mouth-watering goat-filled tacos

When she opened El Jardín in August as both executive chef and partner, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins had a clear goal: Bring Mexico’s oldest, most treasured recipes to a San Diego audience. There’s mole from Puebla, Cotija cheese from Michoacán, and a goat birria from its birthplace of Jalisco. The latter serves as the base for her unique spin on a birria taco.

After marinating and smoking a whole goat, she wraps it in maguey leaves (aka agave) and other aromatics, then slow-roasts it until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone. The assembly is slightly different from your average taco. Zepeda-Wilkins stuffs a tortilla with just the meat, brushing the outside with rendered fat from her housemade birria broth.

The whole taco is roasted, grilled, and served alongside the strained broth containing olla beans, minced onions, cilantro, and lime, which is meant for dunking the taco into. For added heat, look to El Jardín’s salsa trio: molcajete with jalapeños (mild), tomatillo cruda with serranos (medium), and macha with dried chiles (hot).

To hear more from Zepeda-Wilkins on El Jardín and her efforts to push for authentic Mexican eats, listen to San Diego Magazine’s Happy Half Hour podcast at

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Very Important Taco: The Birria Tacos at El Jardin

By Kai Oliver-Kurtin

Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a San Diego-based writer who covers travel, dining, events, and culture. Her writing has been published in USA Today, Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor's Travel, Marie Claire, and HuffPost, among others.

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