A week before Governor Greg Abbott closed restaurant dining rooms statewide in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, I traveled to the oil-rich Permian Basin and had one of the best un-West Texas Mexican meals in West Texas at Wall St. Cocina, in Midland. Thankfully, the nearly two-month-old restaurant has a drive-through. For now, that’s the only way you can get your hands on its snappy birria de res tacos, brimming with chopped bottom round flat beef and served with a cup of the same consommé used for stewing the protein. You can dip the taco in the consommé, as well as eat the broth with a spoon or sip it between bites of taco.
Customers can thank a vacation that co-owner Robert Leyba and his family took to Guadalajara, Mexico, for Wall St. Cocina’s existence. That’s where Leyba encountered birria. He was blown away. “I said, ‘Wow, you know, in West Texas, we’ve never seen this food or tasted it for that matter,” he recalls. “We ended up missing our flight back and ended up staying another six days. I loved Guadalajara.” That trip and the cuisine made such an impression that the 48-year-old Leyba decided it was time to open a restaurant specializing in Guadalajara-style food. A former car dealership owner, he’s opened restaurants since he was in his twenties, including the now shuttered Martini Glass Grill, which was across the street from where Wall St. is today. He thought his wife, Roxanne, might immediately shoot down the idea of opening another restaurant. That’s not what happened.
Leyba explained that he didn’t want to open just another Mexican restaurant. “There’s a Mexican restaurant on every corner, but it’s all West Texas Tex-Mex. If I’m bringing another restaurant, I’m bringing a totally different yet authentic concept.” His wife’s response? “The first thing she said was, ‘We’re bringing tacos de birria.’ ”
They hired Erica Cordero, who used to live in Guadalajara. When they told her they wanted to serve tacos de birria, she told them: “I’ve got the best recipe for that” and prepared a batch of impressive Mexican stew for the Leybas. “This is it,” Leyba recalls saying. “That’s it, right there.” Her stew featured beef (res) in place of the goat or lamb commonly used in birria from central and southern Mexico. Cordero’s spot-on tacos de birria de res are served in corn tortillas stained vermillion from a quick dip in the consommé and topped with raw white onion and chopped cilantro.
Birria de res is also offered in mulitas, a quesadilla-sandwich dish of sorts. The birria is crammed between two massive corn tortillas that are held together by hot, oozing white cheese. They are more of a lunch dish and are usually available after 10 a.m. The tacos de birria de res, however, are ready as soon as Wall St. opens its drive-through each day.