El Cabrito (The Baby Goat). The name says it all. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you drive up at the former Taco Bell and see the patio full of patrons and the parking lot overflowing with cars and (mostly) trucks. Then, for affirmation, you walk inside and see a large colorful sign touting the house specialty: Half Chivo (Baby Goat) $250 – 35 persons, Whole Chivo $425 – 70 persons. Ahh, Goat Heaven! I opted for two pounds at $18.50/lb.
You can specify your choice of cut(s) - wonderful! I requested cabeza and costillas, chopped into chunks, some larger, most smaller, but not shredded or pulverized. I knew that I had scored when I later found a whole baby tongue in the mix. The meat came with all the trimmings: a lively salsa, an awesome dark burnt sienna-colored chili oil/paste, onions, cilantro, radishes, limes and a large cup of consommé. Tortillas were extra, however, the gracious owner afforded me a delectable bonus – a femur bone with meat and cartilage still attached at both ends. Firme!
The birria was perfectly cooked - tender, juicy and, clearly, of very high quality. No doubt, this animal was as well bred as it was prepared. Notably, the serving was devoid of the oft-found stray bone fragments that can be so annoying, and potentially damaging, when noshing away on goat with reckless, wanton abandon. The flavor was distinct and vibrant, yet not overtly gamey. Truly superb. Compliments to the chef!
The consommé was sublime. The savory results of an extended and deliberate cooking process were evident in each dip and every sip. Layered, complex, not oily and only mildly spiced to preserve the exquisite natural umami. It was enjoyably drinkable as a hot beverage.
Fellow Hounds, the past month has indeed been one of bests for degustateur. Instead of declaring El Cabrito’s the best goat I’ve ever had, I urge all of you serious Goat Hounds to venture down to Santa Ana, visit El Cabrito and voice your own respected opinions in reply. All that I ask is for you to, if you are able, tell me where I can find better birria de chivo in SoCal.
FYI, El Cabrito also offers barbacoa de res (beef) plus al pastor, buches, cabeza, carne asada, carnitas, chorizo and lengua. All are sold by the pound, plate, taco, torta, burrito or quesadilla. Rice and beans are also served. I’ve yet to try any of these other offerings and don’t know if or when I will. For now, whenever this kid goes down to El Cabrito, it will be to get his goat on.
Oh yeah, next time, I’m taking my truck.
1604 W. 1st Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703
1604 W 1st St, Santa Ana, CA 92703