Originating from the Mexican state of Jalisco, birria is a stew-like dish served at weddings, baptisms and other special occasions (like hangovers). The meal is most often made from goat meat marinated in an adobo of vinegar, dried chilies and other herbs and spices. It’s then dunked in a roiling, hearty broth and served in a bowl alongside corn tortillas, onion, cilantro and lime.
Before long, mischievous, forward-thinking American food carts (particularly in California) reinvented this traditional dish of Mexico. In the reinvention, people stuffed the marinated meat in a corn tortilla pre-soaked in birria broth and griddle cooked like a quesadilla, served with a ramekin of broth on the side for dipping.
With this innovation, the quesabirria was born, which is available at MBOSQ (say it, em-bose-keh), a new Mexican food cart located in the Barger area of Eugene.
MBOSQ was founded by Omar Moreno — a veteran of the kitchens at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Eugene, now called The Graduate, as well as the dearly-missed Eugene Thai restaurant, Mekala’s. What stands out at MBOSQ is the quesabirria, which is served in three pieces with lettuce, cilantro, lime and the birria broth on the side, viscous with pork fat, a little like an au jus but more multidimensional.
For sauce, I recommend the chile de árbol sauce or the impossibly smooth avocado sauce — why not both? I was warned the chile de árbol was spicy. I say, not bad. I ask Omar Moreno Jr., who works at the food cart with his dad and handles marketing, what’s in the chile de árbol?
“I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you,” the son says — right answer, Moreno, right answer.
Other side options include Mexican sour cream and a chipotle sauce. But no matter what sauce you choose, hit the juicy insides of the griddled tortilla with a generous dose of lime, slather the slices of quesabirria in the sauce of your choice and then bite down for a cheesy crunch existing somewhere between a sound and a sensation. Birria broth and lime juice will drip down your fingers, and I highly recommend licking them clean.
One order of quesabirria at MBOSQ is a solid meal alone, but I wasn’t done.
Also stellar at MBOSQ is the chipotle and al pastor street tacos, served with cilantro, onion, cabbages and lime. The secret ingredient in the al pastor is pineapple, Moreno Jr. tells me, as well as Middle Eastern spices that also show up in the chipotle.
That’s the influence of the cuisine from the Mexican state of Nayarit, where many Lebanese emigrated to in the 1940s and where Moreno’s mom and dad are originally from. Everything at MBOSQ is Nayarit-style, Moreno explains.
Needless to say, opening a food cart in the middle of a pandemic is fraught with risk, but MBOSQ is doing it the right way, strictly following safety guidelines in everything they do, with plenty of outdoor seating.
The family almost delayed the long prepared-for opening of the cart on account of COVID, but decided to forge ahead, confident in their quesabirria, among other menu offerings. It’s paid off. Moreno Jr. says, “We got some addicts, coming here, eating this stuff all the time.”
MBOSQ Mexican Food is open noon to 7 pm Tuesday through Saturday at 4965 Barger Drive in Eugene.