500 Tacos: El Borrego de Oro

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
El Borrego de Oro
3900 S. Congress Ave. (map), 512-383-0031. Hours: 7am-10pm daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.09.15
In a choppy, time-lapse montage of how a city changes, this homely peach brick building at the corner of Congress and Ben White would stand resolutely still as its neighbors fall to a post office, a McDonald’s, a P. Terry’s and the march of the condos. The building hasn’t changed since El Borrego de Oro moved here 10 years ago from South First’s Tex-Mex Mile. Take that back: They’ve added a folk-art mural on the front door, with cactus, a margarita glass and a snowy white quadruped that could be a sheep, a dog or the arctic cousin to the creature from “Alien.” One thing stays the same at the Golden Sheep, though: The birria that gives the place its name. They make a little bit of everything here, five pages’ worth of small type. But with gold so bright, El Borrego de Oro had me at hello birria.
The taco: Birria
Sometimes with tacos, you have to put in your own work. And if you want a roasted lamb taco at El Borrego de Oro, you’ll have to order the birria plate and get busy. Forget the chips and salsa, the rice and beans. Focus on the lamb, a tangle of long and short fibers in ruddy shades of early fall. The meat is by turns lush and fatty, lean and clean, the signature of lamb cooked according to its own schedule. Not so long that it melts away into stew — that’s what the consomé de borrego is for — but long enough for the onions and tomatoes to cook down. The lamb speaks for itself, in the low, soft tones of a time-lapse voiceover. ($10.95 for a birria plate with rice, beans and tortillas)
 Tortilla: Housemade corn. Big, fresh and hot. A competent carrier for the birria with only the barest corn flavor of its own to add. That’s fine: the birria needs no help.
 Salsa: Blindfolded, there’s no way I could tell the cool, blended red apart from the cool, blended green. Either one works with chips. But I’ll say it again: The Golden Sheep needs no help.
The 500 Tacos Project
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(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)