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Ed Fernandez Birrieria Restaurant

The Ed Fernandez Birrieria Restaurant in Nestor has been a San Diego institution for years. Back in 2005, when there was no birria in San Diego, the Fernandez brothers decided to open a Birrieria. Now birria is everywhere. Birria is shredded meat slow cooked in a stew with essential spices such as garlic, cumin, chili peppers and bay leaves. In Mexico, goat meat was typically used for birria. The broth, also known as consomme, is not only enjoyed as a soup, but also for dunking the birria tacos in. In the US, beef is more common for birria, although there are other restaurants that still do goat meat. Fernandez uses beef.

I tried Fernandez restaurant for the first time back in 2014. When I bit into the tacos, it was one of the best tacos I ever had. It was one of the few food epiphanies I've had where you knew the food was pretty special. A family-run business, making its mark in the culinary world on the bottom level of an apartment complex. Business was bustling at the time (even at 9am in the morning). Service was impeccable, with the waiter being very attentive. One of the owners always personally greeted everyone, always smiling and always made the effort to shake almost everyone's hand as they walked in or out of the restaurant. It definitely had the love of the locals.

Business has always been bustling even with the limited days and hours of service (they are only open Wednesday through Sunday from 6AM to 2PM, somtimes selling out before then). It gets extremely busy and there is limited parking. During the pandemic, they did strictly takeout. I believe they only re-opened their dining area only recently (I think sometime last year). In 2022, Ed Fernandez Restaurant was named the Best Taco Shop in the US by Yelp. Since then, they've been trying to keep up with demand.

So, this morning I work up early for a Saturday. Since I went to La Central Birrieria (opened by one of the Fernandez brothers) a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to compare birria. It was early enough to avoid the crowd.

As you can see, the restaurant is part of an apartment complex. Since it's before 8am, there was still plenty of parking and the dining area wasn't full.

One of the main differences since the last time I was there (probably around 2018) is that if you are dining inside, you order ar the window and pay before you are seated in the dining area. They still have a pickup window for takeout orders. There is an outside seating area for take-out dining.

Here is the menu:

The menu has expanded a bit since the last time I was there. It looks like they offer Birria Ramen, Tortas and Menudo (on weekends). Another addition are the combos, which is nice. I decided to go with the Ed Fernandez Combo #1, which includes a regular birria taco, quesataco, Chupacabras (beef with tendon), Extremo Taco and Consome. It had a nice variety of tacos to sample.

The dining area is alot smaller than I remember it. Probably smaller as the order window is taking up space where table were preciously occupying.

Here is the #1 combo. Clockwise from upper left: regular taco, Extemo (seared/tatemada style), Quesataco, and the Chupacabras.

I started with the quesatacos so the cheese doesn't turn solid. The regular quesataco has a freshly made corn tortilla. The tortilla was thick and not as crispy as the regular tortillas they use, but it is very nice.

The regular tacos used the standard premade corn tortillas. They are crisped up on the grill. Dipping the tacos into the consome is a must. The beef in all the tacos were exceptional. The seared birria taco had a nice light outer crisp. The consome was perfect. It had nice beefy flavors and a good combination of spices and a not overly salty. It's as good as I remember. Four tacos for breakfast was a bit much, but someone has to do it. It turned out to be bruch.

Ed Fernandez Birrieria remains one of the best birrieria in San Diego, and worthy of the Yelp title.

The La Central and Ed Fernandez Comparison

As you may or may not know, one of the Fernandez brothers, Miquel, opened up La Central Birrieria and Menuderia a few block away from Ed Fernandez Restaurant. I'm not sure if it was an amicable separation (hopefully it was). I visited La Central a couple of weeks ago and posted on it. One reason I went to Ed Fernandez was to compare both while I can somewhat remember how the food at La Central tasted.

I felt the beef consistency was about the same. Its was shredded very nicely and was pretty tender at both places. The nervio/tendon at La Cental was really nice, almost the consistency of bone marrow. The Chupacabras taco at Ed Fernandez apparently had tendon but I actually didn't notice it.

As far as the tortilla, I did not have the fresh corn tortilla for the questataco at La Central. For the regular tortillas, Ed Fernandez crisps their tortillas on the grill a bit more so it is much crunchier. Thay also double up on the tortillas so it makes for a much heartier taco. La Central uses just one tortilla per taco. The tortilla is a bit lighter and not as crispy as Ed Fernandez, but it still had a nice light crunch. Its was almost like a flour tortilla. Between the two, I actually liked the tortilla at La Central better, and it still held up well against the consome dip.

As far as the broth, as mentioned in my La Central post, the first time I went to La Central, I found the broth as not having enough salt. I had to reach for the salt several times. It was strange as it was related to the Fernandez restaurant. I figured it was an off day for them. On the second visit, a couple of weeks ago, the broth was much, much better, with the salt being at a good level. The broth at Fernandez was on point. It grabbed me when I took a sip by itself. I felt it had a much beefier flavor

As far as the restaurant themselves, seems like both have a different feel. For Fernandez, with it being even more busy after earning the Yelp title, they most likely had to adapt to the demand. It seems like they've become a well-oiled machine with serving the amount of customers they do. When Miquel was there, he seemed to be the face of the restaurant at the time, giving it a more homey feeling, like you were at a dining room at someone's home. This visit at Fernandez, everyone was bustlings, getting ready for the rush. It felt more like an operation nowadays, and that is fine since it is the result from their success. La Central has retained the home style vibe, with Miquel interacting with everyone and the customers, shaking everyone's hands. La Central still has waiter service and they are ultra-attentive and nice. They are still building up recognition, and I am sure they will get to the same level as Ed Fernandez.

So, my choice between Ed Fernandez and La Central: both. They are both fantastic and any area one edges out over is canceled out in another area. Go visit and support both regularly.

Ed Fernandez Birrieria

2265 Flower Ave Ste D

San Diego, CA 92154

Wed - Sun: 6am - 2pm

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I'm a big fan of good birria de chivo Denver. Fernandez is basically the only place that I thought made a decent birria de res.

Mar 12
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You know, I gotta go to Don Rafa. It’s been ages

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