The South Side’s Secret Gem

Sometimes you just know a place is going to be good when it’s confident enough to serve only one thing on the menu. That’s the case with Birrieria Zaragoza, a hidden gem in Archer Heights on the South Side. The family-owned restaurant is a small storefront that specializes in delicious goat, and only goat. More specifically, they serve birria—a slow-cooked Mexican stew made with goat. At Birrieria Zaragoza, they go through approximately 22 young goats in a weekend, cooking and braising them for hours before adding in a tomato-based consommé to be served with homemade tortillas.

I had first heard of the place through a friend and was intrigued enough to make the long trek south to try it out. It’s not often that I wander down past the Loop so it has to be something really special to get me out there. As it turns out, it was well worth it. My friend and I walked in about 20 minutes before closing (I know, I hate to be ‘that guy’ but we lost track of time) and it looked like they were getting ready to call it a day, but the owner John Zaragoza graciously welcomed us in as if we had just entered his home. Since it was our first time there, he took the time to explain the whole menu to us. You’ve got your choice of a small or large plate of birria, birria tacos and birria and cheese quesadillas as well as a side of fire-roasted salsa. They also sell birria to-go by the half pound and an assortment of beverages, of which I had the horchata.

Now I’m no expert on goat but this was some damn fine goat. Similar to lamb but a little beefier, the birria was oh-so-tender and flavorful thanks to the consommé. The Zaragozas were kind enough to give us a side of salsa on the house, which give an extra kick with its spiciness. Put that all together on a tortilla and you have a heavenly combo. I also ordered a quesadilla that was equally tasty when paired with the birria. Even my friend, ever the skeptic, had to admit it was fantastic. If the South Side has more spots flying under the radar like this, you can be sure I’ll be making journeys out there more often.


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