Over 80 years ago, Birriería Chololo started life as a street stand. Its founder, Don Isidro Torres, made a huge success of the family business. Today, there are three Birrierías Chololo run by Don Isidro's eight children, and the Chololo campestre (countryside), managed by Fidel Torres Ruiz, is the busiest of the batch. The restaurant, which seats 1000 people and turns the tables four times every Sunday, is closed only on Lenten Fridays and Christmas Day. Every other day of the year, it's a goat feast.
Birria and frijolitos refritos con queso, for two people. A bowl of consomé is in the background.
The offerings at Birriería Chololo (a nickname for Isidro) are pure simplicity. Birria de chivo (goat), consomé (the rich goat broth), frijolitos con queso (refried beans with melted cheese), salsa de molcajete (house-made salsa served in heavy volcanic stone mortars), a quesadilla here and there, and a couple of desserts are the entire bill of fare. The birria, cooked 12 to 14 hours in a clay oven, is prepared to your order, according to the number in your party. You can ask for maciza (just chunks of meat) or surtido (an assortment of meats, including the goat's tongue, lips, and tripitas (intestines).
Birriería Chololo raises its own animals from birth to slaughter. That way, says Don Fidel, quality control is absolute. The restaurant butchers approximately 700 100-pound animals per week to feed the hungry multitudes.
The full bar at El Chololo serves its liquor in a way you might not have seen at your local watering hole. A bottle of your favorite tipple is set down on your table. A black mark on the open bottle's label indicates where your consumption starts, and at the end of your meal, you're charged for alcohol by the measure.
Some birrierías serve meat and consomé in one plate, but not El Chololo. Consomé, the heady pot likker rendered from the goats' overnight baking, is served in its own bowl. Before you dip your spoon into the soup, add some fresh minced onions, a pinch of sea salt, a squeeze of limón, and a squirt of the other house-made salsa on the table, the one in the squeeze bottle. Ask for refills of consomé--they're on the house. Just don't ask for the recipe. It's a closely guarded family secret.
On Sundays and other festive days, roving mariachis brighten up the restaurant's ambiance. Birthday parties, First Communion parties, wedding anniversaries, and other family fiestas are all celebrated at El Chololo, and nothing makes a party better than a song or two. You'll hear Las Mañanitas (the traditional congratulatory song for every occasion) ten times on any given Sunday!