Having seen video of the hours-long line that forms for tacos at El Remedio, I arrived at the bare-bones San Antonio food truck an hour before it opened. I sat down at a picnic table inside a large catering tent and scrolled through the news and social media on my phone. Perhaps ten minutes later, a health care worker in scrubs and her children queued up. As other customers arrived, I got up to stand in line too. We were waiting for the trailer’s delicious carnitas and birria specialties, especially its quesitacos.
The portmanteau (sometimes spelled “quesatacos”) denotes a taco that oozes with cheese. It’s the stuff of messy-eating dreams. El Remedio’s comes with melted mozzarella and your choice of birria or carnitas. I ordered the former. The cheese was the perfect match for the thick chunks of shredded beef; the squishable filling is served in doubled-up corn tortillas brushed with the the dark reddish-orange consommé of the stew. Pinch the taco between your figures and watch the juices from the cheese and stewed beef rush to the top of the taco and to its edges. This is the birria quesitaco at El Remedio. You should, as with any taco de birria, request a side of consommé, which at this trailer is a tingly, salty concoction packed with more beef birria and a dash of onion and cilantro.
El Paso native Joshua Palacios and his wife, Martha Sánchez, adapted the recipe based on one given to them by Martha’s father, Luis, who hails from Sahuayo, Mexico, in the state of Michoacán. Luis was a birria specialist in his hometown, where, Martha says, “different types of birria are sold on every corner—goat, chicken, beef, all of it, and about ninety percent of his family either own or have some type of connection to it all.” Palacios and Sánchez took advantage of Luis’s expertise when they launched a catering business in 2017 after relocating from Los Angeles, where birria de res was becoming the rage. “My father-in-law has made it for many years,” Palacios says. “I had just started hearing about that birria de res boom in California. We took it as a great opportunity, but everything comes from el suegro,” Palacio explains, referring to his father-in-law.
The original catering operation built not on birria and carnitas, but on seafood. “People used to call us up asking for our clamatos and ceviches,” Palacios says. “That’s how our catering started.” In fact, the logo for El Remedio is a winking, mustachioed man in a doctor’s coat and ball cap offering up a spicy Clamato shrimp cocktail, prized as a salve for hangovers (El Remedio translates to “the Cure” in English). But it’s the weekend-only trailer’s birria and carnitas that draw those aforementioned long lines. To help alleviate those barbecue-joint-like long waits, I’d love for them to trim their menu and focus on their meats, regardless of their name and logo. I think trucks work best when they excel at a more limited menu.
However, right now El Remedio is rightly focusing on getting through the coronavirus pandemic. It has switched to taking preorders via phone and email. Other menu items include the no-fuss birria tacos without the cheese and a tawny-colored, ruffled-edged costra. But I prefer the birria quesitacos, although you can’t go wrong choosing the carnitas filling, either. The pork is sweet, juicy, and shimmering, and it’s even better with cheese. Isn’t everything? The taqueria’s crowds, which are for now relegated to a line of cars waiting for pickup orders, prove as much.