Marrow on the side in Ysidro

A birria to stop you short of the border

A cochinita pibil taco and beef birria taco
  • A cochinita pibil taco and beef birria taco

Usually San Ysidro means a trip through the world’s busiest border crossing and, ipso facto, tacos for lunch. But this time I’m taking the second to LAST USA EXIT in search of bone marrow. And tacos for lunch.

Tuétano Taqueria

143 West San Ysidro Boulevard, San Ysidro

Thank goodness, because I’ve lagged on getting my passport renewed, and being this close to Tijuana evokes fond, folded masa memories. I park in front of the small Tuétano Taqueria with a distinct craving.

Tuétano, a.k.a. bone marrow

Tuétano, a.k.a. bone marrow

Tuétano translates as marrow, and it’s the low-key shop’s bone marrow that first caught my attention, photos of it turning up in the Reader’s latest Taco issue and a bunch of recent foodie feeds. Standing by a small ordering counter, I can see several chops of birria-steeped bone grilling over open flame through a window to the kitchen. It’s offered as a $3 side dish.

As expected, it’s gelatinously delicious, with a touch of smoke to the condensed beef flavor. And so are the tortillas I see, sizzling away on a flat top. I watch as spoonsful of shredded beef are scooped from chili red broth to fill the slightly crispy tortillas. You can order a $9 plate of this birria from the guisados menu, and that can’t be a bad way to go. It’s pure comfort food, savory and warming, and I could really go for some again right now.

I order it as a $2.50 taco, alongside another stuffed with cochinita pibil. That’s served with pickled red onions, adding bright acids to warmly spiced and mildly sweet pork taco. Very tasty. But I have to go back to the birria. Make that the quesobirria taco. For a quarter more, grated mozzarella cheese is melted onto the grilling tortilla, wrapping the meat like a cozy umami coat.

For fun, I spoon a bit of the bone marrow onto the taco. A pretty memorable salsa too. Not a bad consolation for being stuck on this side of the border.

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