When Jazmin Sears quit her job to focus on her restaurant business earlier this year, she was excited to unleash her passion for cooking. She had been organizing parties and events for a few years and wanted to make it her full-time gig.
Then the pandemic struck. Sears, which calls itself “Jazz,” lost its first major catering contract, a contract that it believed it could provide on a regular basis.
“All canceled graduation parties, all canceled April events, all canceled May events,” Sears said.
The future of his full-time catering business, which had been booked months in advance, looked bleak.
But Sears quickly turned a pivot in March: A liquor store owner she knew in Laveen said she could sell food in her parking lot with her taco cart.
And that’s how the Birria company was born.
This is how AZ Taco King started
AZ Taco King, the parking lot version, attracted visitors from all over. “People were in line for three hours, coming from Tucson, Maricopa, Casa Grande,” she said. They were all waiting to taste his birria de res, a Mexican beef stew with dried chili peppers and a savory broth.
When it got too crowded in the liquor store parking lot (one day the line of cars was so long it caused an accident, she said), Sears and her husband Samuel decided to start AZ Taco King’s brick and mortar location in Phoenix.
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They opened the new restaurant at the end of August, and in just under two months Sears said there were already days they were selling birria before closing time.
“Every week it just gets better and better,” she said.
What’s on the menu at AZ Taco King?
It probably goes without saying, but AZ Taco King’s menu highlights Sears’ specialty: la birria de res.
It’s not just the famous quesabirria, a dish that includes a corn tortilla dipped in consumed broth and filled with cheese and birria. Sears is an innovator, offering unusual dishes such as “ramenbirria”, with ramen noodles consumed with cheese and birria.
AZ Taco King also offers other meats such as carne asada, carnitas and barbacoa for street tacos, quesadillas and “king burros”.
As for drinks, there is agua fresca and horhata prepared daily to accompany the birria of your choice.
Why you must try the quesabirria signature
One thing to know before trying AZ Taco King: It’s usually pretty busy, according to Sears. On a recent Sunday around 12:30 p.m., just 30 minutes after the restaurant opened for the day, there were already enough people to eat in and take out.
Food usually takes at least 20 minutes to prepare, so factor that into your time when planning a restaurant visit. Sears said customers can place orders in advance, but sometimes the family business is so busy they can’t pick up the phone. The best way to order food is to go inside and wait in your car for someone to bring it when it’s ready.
While waiting for my food, I enjoyed the two drinks of the day, horchata and watermelon agua fresca. The agua fresca with pieces of watermelon was refreshing and not too sweet while the horchata de arroz was also fresh and fragrant with cinnamon sticks. I see no reason to choose between the two drinks – order both.
After trying the birria, it’s easy to understand why people waited three hours in their cars in the hope of tasting this dish. The taco quesabirria dipped in the delicate consomme (which some people call “the dip,” Sears said) is one of the best taco experiences I’ve ever had. Don’t skip the dip, but remember you have to ask for it on the side.
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The shredded meat inside the taco is remarkably tender and juicy after hours of stewing. While chili peppers add a rich flavor, they only contain mild heat. With the quesabirria overflowing with gooey melted cheese, some of it gets crispy around the edges of the grill. These tacos come with classic onion and cilantro toppings with a spicy salsa. A quesabirria is a bit bigger than a street taco, but still small, so order at least two or you might be disappointed.
Birriafries are also a must. I ate this giant pile of fries topped with birria, cheese, onions and green salsa while watching football and I could hardly think of a better plate to enjoy a lazy Sunday at home. Just make sure to save some of the consomé to dip the fries in as well.
AZ Taco King
Or: 2030 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix.
Offers: Tacos and birria from res.
Price: Quesabirria $ 3.25; consumption $ 2; birriafries $ 12; horchata $ 2.50; agua fresca $ 2.50.
Hours: Tuesday 12 p.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday 12 p.m.-8 p.m., Thursday 12 p.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 12 p.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Details: 602-675-0923, facebook.com/aztacoking.
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