By Kathy Chouteau
A glowing review by San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho may have placed the final jewel in El Garage’s crown as the queen of Richmond birria taco makers.
In an article headlined, “Richmond’s viral driveway taco is just as hypnotic at its new restaurant home,” the food critic hailed praise on El Garage, which experienced a meteoric rise from the Montano family’s garage on Garvin Ave. to a recently opened, brick-and-mortar spot at 1428 Macdonald Ave. in downtown Richmond.
Ho shared how, driven by the power of Instagram and the tastiness of sisters Viviana and Evelyn Montano’s tacos, foodies from throughout the Bay Area flocked to their Richmond driveway and nearby pop-ups for a taste—gaining a large and loyal following along the way. As Ho put it, El Garage “showed up in the Bay Area’s food scene with the impact of Beyonce at the Super Bowl.”
“Anyone looking at the prospect of waiting in line for Instagram-famous tacos will ask the obvious question: Is it worth the hype? By the power vested in me by the state of California, I say ‘yes,’” said Ho, giving El Garage’s birria tacos a resounding endorsement.
“An El Garage taco is a savory blast, with a caramelized halo of excess cheese that accentuates the beefiness of the filling,” described Ho, who first sampled El Garage’s culinary wonder at a pop-up at Temescal Brewing a year ago.
“Peeling the crisp tortillas apart to add garnishes is a delicate operation, but it’s worth it,” she added. “Habanero pickles, fresh lime juice and raw onion supply enough acid so that you don’t feel awash in a sea of richness. Dip the tacos in a side of drinkable beefy consommé to fill your mouth with peppery broth and alternate bites with raw radish and cucumber to cool the palate.”
In the age of COVID and restaurant take-out, Ho recommended eating El Garage’s birria tacos as close to their source as possible, as by their steaming-hot nature, they aren’t always the best travelers.
Following a more recent visit to El Garage’s restaurant, the dining room of which remains closed, Ho said she opted to “treat the restaurant like any other taco truck” and ate her birria tacos on the hood of her car.
“Amidst the other contenders for Bay Area birria royalty, El Garage’s version has a noticeably strong flavor that doesn’t tend to get overwhelmed by the cheese. Its consommé, which one can order with extra meat mixed in, is excellent enough to be eaten as a meal, without the sensational packaging,” wrote Ho of her culinary adventure in Richmond.
Although El Garage’s dining room is currently closed, the restaurant is operating with a walk-up ordering system. Learn more about El Garage here.