Andrew Zimmern's Go-To Chicago Restaurant For Birria - Exclusive

As foodies, we always find it intriguing to learn what professional chefs we admire eat when they're not cooking, especially someone like Andrew Zimmern, who knows a thing or two about good food. The James Beard Award-winning chef has taken viewers around the globe to explore delicious cuisines in the most obscure regions, and Food Republic spoke with Zimmern at the Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Fest's Taste of Paradise event, where he discussed tacos and tequila on stage.

When asked about his preferred dining spots when not making tacos at home, Zimmern replied, "I go to [Birrieria] Zaragoza for birria in Chicago. That's really, really good." Birria is a traditional meat stew from Jalisco, Mexico, which can be prepared with various proteins like mutton, beef, and cow's head, though goat is most popular. The meat is slow-cooked in a rich broth with dried chiles, onions, garlic, and spices such as marjoram, oregano, bay leaves, and cumin, creating a red braising liquid. Birria is often used for tacos, with the savory meat stuffed into a corn tortilla.

In a 2013 episode of Zimmern's Travel Channel show "Bizarre Foods," the chef visited the kitchen of Birrieria Zaragoza, a family-run restaurant. There, he joined executive chef Jonathan Zaragoza in breaking down a goat and later sat at the restaurant's counter, tasting several traditional dishes they brought from Jalisco.

The place to go for birria

John Zaragoza began his culinary journey by cooking from his home before opening Birrieria Zaragoza in 2007. This five-table Chicago restaurant later expanded to a second location, yet the establishment has maintained a casual atmosphere despite its success. For four consecutive years, Birrieria Zaragoza received the Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes reasonably priced restaurants that serve exceptional food.

Andrew Zimmern describes goat meat as similar to lamb, but less greasy and more sweet, and while it is not a common find in U.S. supermarkets, it is a staple on Birrieria Zaragoza's menu. The restaurant sources locally raised grass-fed goats to create its signature birria, also featured in its tacos and quesadillas. Its menu includes lesser-known dishes like goat head, served with cilantro, onions, lime, hot sauce, and arbol chiles, and machito, a sausage-like dish made from the goat's organs (heart, kidney, and liver) encased in its intestines. Home cooks in the U.S. looking to prepare birria can find goat meat at Caribbean or South Asian markets, where it's typically sold chopped and frozen. For a twist, consider substituting tortillas with bao buns for amazing birrias.

Zimmern praised Birrieria Zaragoza's birria, yet he isn't the only notable figure to recognize the restaurant. It was featured in Season 3 of Netflix's docuseries "Taco Chronicles: Cross the Border." Additionally, actor Jeremy Allen White from FX and Hulu's intense culinary drama "The Bear" recently visited the restaurant, despite not being a professional chef.