Let go from her restaurant job during the pandemic, Azrael Laia was scrolling through Instagram, when she double tapped on decadent images of birria tacos, then did what all good wives do; asked her husband to make the Western Mexico tacos that have been lighting up social media.
For most of us who like to cook, that’s where the story typically ends. But for Laia and Dominick Buster, their birria taco story is still going. After posting their own birria tacos to social media, they became inundated with requests for them. Demand grew to the point that the couple have opened their own taco stand called D.A. Taste, located in South Buffalo, inside the South Park Mart convenience store.
Birria tacos are traditionally filled with hearty stew meat and grilled on a flat top. Before being grilled, two corn tortilla shells per taco are dipped in rendered fat from the stew. At D.A. Taste, a layer of cheese is added to each shell. The shells are then stacked before being filled.
“Typically, the birria stew is made by taking animal scraps and making a fine, delicious thing out of it,” Laia told me. “But we’re in Buffalo, and when you describe that to people it doesn’t sound so appealing. So, we took the general idea and more or less Americanized it, or Buffalo-ized it.”
Tacos varieties include beef birria (3 for $12, 9 for $25), chicken birria ($12, $25), Philly steak ($12, $25), Buffalo pizza ($12, $25), stinger ($15, $35), jerk chicken ($15, $35) and shrimp and lobster $15, $35). Each set of three tacos comes with a cup of spicy broth for dipping. House-smoked queso served with the Philly steak taco is available individually for $2.
D.A. Taste also has occasional taco specials, which was a Steak in the Grass taco during my visit. Sides include chips and queso ($10) or pretzels and queso ($7). Beverages are available through the convenience store.
As you might expect, I found the tacos hearty, cheesy and meaty, but aggressive seasoning smartly cut through all that richness. In my Steak in the Grass taco, the spinach offered an interesting vegetal counterpoint. My cup of dipping broth packed a wallop, with spicy pepper, cumin and cinnamon notes giving it an almost North African quality. The hands-down highlight was the house-smoked queso, which had a magical quality, switching on the palate from sweet to spicy to smoky. Simply put, these tacos are the things that late night munchie fantasies and hangover cures are made of.
Full disclosure: This article was supposed to come out a week ago. I was supposed to pop into the South Park corner store last Tuesday, during a 30-minute lunch break, but upon arriving, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. There was a line out the door.
Laia said lines out the door have been a regular occurrence, despite not having any visible signage. It’s the classic if-you-know-you-know situation.
“There’s not a single sign anywhere that says D.A. Taste, and we’re seeing how long it takes before we have to put one up,” she said. “But right now, we don’t have a single sign outside the building that says where we are.”
She added that their partnership with the convenience store has been mutually beneficial.
“They don’t have to worry about the kitchen. We don’t have to worry about the drinks. We’ve expanded their customer base and have more regulars now, because we’ve brought our regulars to them.”
“Honestly, we want to stretch out our time as long as possible, because it’s such a fun location and it’s a bit of a food desert. It seems like we may be overgrowing it, but the community really appreciates our vibe.”
Given all that’s happened in the past year and a half, it’s heartwarming to see people have such smashing success, even if it is on such a modest scale. Laia said the success of D.A. Taste has been amazing, but somewhat bittersweet.
“Being a young couple, coming from different struggles, it’s almost been like an American dream that you don’t see that much in America anymore, especially in a big city during a pandemic,” she said, her voice cracking slightly. “We’ve seen so many businesses and even friends that are out of business or out of work. And here we are, thriving up. It’s amazing to see and we’re so grateful, but it’s also been a conflicted journey.”
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