Let’s start off this Mexican restaurant review the only place it possibly can: with Vietnamese food.
I don’t know where pho ranks in Vietnam as a food, but in Oklahoma City, America, it is THE Vietnamese food. We might know about bánh mì or bún bò huế, but if you ask most Oklahomans what their favorite Vietnamese food is, or if they can even name one, most will tell you it’s pho.
There’s a good reason for this: Pho is amazing. It’s a giant bowl of steaming spiced beef broth with rice noodles, onions and thin slices of beef. It requires both mastery of the spoon and chopsticks to eat correctly. In addition to being a delicious dish, regardless of the weather, it is also a magical cure all.
Whether a cold, the flu or demonic possession, pho can make you whole again. I’ve not specifically seen someone dip a severed limb into pho and come out with a new arm or leg grown in place, but it sounds plausible. Such is pho’s power.
But did you know there exists a Mexican version of pho? It’s true! And it holds all the same miraculous healing properties as its Vietnamese cousin.
It is birria and you need it in your life.
The best place to get it is the aptly named Birrieria Diaz in sleepy Bethany.
Just a stone’s throw from Southern Nazarene University (the focus is YOU!), Birrieria Diaz has all the things I prize most in Mexican restaurants: friendly service, killer food and icy cold Mexican beer (and Mexican Coke).
While the dish remains the same, Birrieria Diaz has changed the menu for its signature birria from the adorable “beef or sheep” to the somewhat more acceptable “beef or lamb.” What you are choosing here is the broth and meat of your birria.
Yes, you’re getting birria. Did you miss the first part of this? Of course you’re getting birria.
The brothy stew is nose-clearingly spicy and flavorful, with rich and ripe chili soaking into tender chunks of beef (or lamb).
Much as pho comes with a plate of accoutrements, birria arrives at your table with different types of tortillas, limes, onions and peppers for you to doctor up your dish however you choose. I like a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of diced red onion to give it a citrus tang and a bit of crunch. You can make tacos out of it if you want, but I hunker down with a spoon and shovel into my gaping maw.
The ratio of meat-to-broth is greater with birria than pho, but you don’t get those delicious noodles.
So if you’re looking for a soup that is even more filling, check out the posole verde ($8.99). My love of posole is well documented, but this one is a little different. Using green, rather than red, peppers gives this a bit milder taste. It’s still got some heat, but you’ll be able to eat more of this without taking a breather.
Posole is a pork-based stew with big pieces of juicy pork hidden throughout. The rest of the heft comes from hominy — big ol’ pieces of corn. It’s very filling, so go ahead and divide the price in half because you’re definitely going to be able to eat this for a couple of meals.
Tacos Diaz ($8.99) are a dish that excites my inner fat kid and helps develop my outer fat adult. Much as I love some taqueria tacos, I cannot deny the appeal of flour tortillas stuffed with steak, ham, bacon and melted cheese.
Did you hear that? You just slurped. You almost drooled. I can’t blame you. These tacos make ordering at Birrieria Diaz nearly impossible. Every single trip, I’m confronted with another “must-have” item.
Last time I went, I met a lawyer who looked like Russell Crowe, as if that’s fair. “Chris,” as he calls himself, said he’s devoted to Diaz’s tamales ($9.49). And you know what? They’re great, too.
When will we finally start regulating restaurants to make sure they only have a few really good dishes? Call your Congressman. Call my Congressman. Use a phone or just lean out of a window. This needs to happen now.
At least this last dish won’t be so go-OH COME ON!
How you gonna throw camarones gordos ($12.99) at me? Fat shrimp, as it’s known in America, camarones gordos are big ol’ shrimp stuffed with ham and cheese and wrapped in bacon and fried until the oil begins whistling “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Are these life-changing? No. They’re pretty tasty, but if you don’t get them, there’s so much more on the menu that you’ll leave plenty happy. That said, if you do get them, woo! Lawd. Somehow the bacon gets crispy without the shrimp overcooking. Maybe it’s the added moisture from the ham? I don’t know. I’m not a food wizard. I’m just a man, thinking about stuffing a pig and some cow’s milk inside a shrimp and wrapping it in more pig, just like you.
So...who’s up for Birrieria Diaz tomorrow?
Oh. That’s a lot of you. Okay. Let’s call ahead to make sure they can seat us all.
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6700 NW 39th St., Bethany
Thurs-Tues 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Wed 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Birria (beef or lamb) - $6.99-10.99
Posole verde - $8.99
Camarones gordos - $12.99