I first ate at the Beefrr-landia truck—New York City’s only specialist in Tijuana-style beef stew tacos—after a long walk down Roosevelt Avenue following an evening eating through the Queens International Night Market with Action Bronson.
It was our third taco stop of the night, and we were already quite full. The first was a passable taqueria on National Street, and the second was the amazing nameless al pastor cart that comes out late night in front of the check cashing spot on the northwest corner of Junction and Roosevelt.
Despite the fact that we were all at maximum tacopacity we all looked at each other and decided we had to have the tacos from this truck. None of us had ever seen a tacos de birria vendor anywhere in New York City. I had a taco de birria, while Rachel and her boyfriend, John, each had a taco and split a mulita, a quesadilla like creation, which she raved about. It was a tasty taco, the tortilla stained a reddish orange and topped with beefy stew, but I knew I’d appreciate it more on an empty stomach, so I made it my business to return.
“It’s the best for a hangover,” the Mexican dude next to me said with smile as he saw me slurping the rich, meaty consomme. It was spicy, but it also had a whole host of other aromatics that I couldn’t identify. That mix of beef and spices—the truck’s signature aroma—can be detected up the block and only gets stronger as you approach. The zippy acidic salsa—a concoction of chili de arbol, guajillo, and tomatillo—cuts through the birria’s unabashed beefiness like a velvet machete. “These tacos are so beefy, that must be the reason for the extra ‘R’ s in the name Beefrr-landia,” I mused wiping the red sauce from my digits.
Thanks to a recent a writeup by Robert Sietsema and a Vendy Freshman nomination, this past Saturday afternoon, the cart was hopping with a lively mix of locals, and gringo food adventurers. “I think it’s cash only,” a dude from the County of Kings said to his companion, as I waited to my place my order, which consisted of the entire menu: a tostada, a taco, a mulita, and naturally, a consomme.
As I was I polishing off the crunchy reddish tostada José Moreno, the head cook and co-owner emerged from the truck to take a break. The secret to his taco’s beefiness, he said is, a heady blend of brisket, bone-in beef shank, and inside top round, that cooks for three hours. Moreno goes through 70 pounds of this magical mix a day. As I write this now I entertain a fantasy of spicy beef marrow tacos. The bewitching aroma comes from a mix of cumin, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaves, cloves, and of course slow simmered beef. He also told me one theory about the name of the mulita. It’s innards—beefy birria and gooey mozzarella—are hidden by two layers just the way balloons of drugs are hidden in the stomaches of drug mules. “It’s hidden in here now,” I rejoined, patting my belly.
“Personally I love these tacos,” Moreno said. “I started making these tacos for me and co-workers in an Italian restaurant I used to work at for 18 years.” The chef also told me that he went to Tijuana to perfect his craft.
As I was leaving an Asian man on a bicycle, clearly a local, ordered a few tacos. “I love these tacos,” he said. “I’m Nepali, I own a restaurant around the corner, it’s called Laliguras,” he said as I smiled in recognition, reveling in the most Queens taco truck experience ever.
Beefrr-landia, 77-99 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 347-283-2162