Oakland: El Potrillo Restaurant & Bar

Before I started my housesitting gig, my coworker told me something monumental.  Once I found out that the best birrieria in the East Bay was going to be down the street from me, it was game over.  Nothing else mattered except getting myself over there.

El Potrillo was number one on my list to hit when my sister and T came to visit me.  The original plan was to go there for dinner Saturday night, but my coworker warned me that birria is more of a breakfast/lunch thing and that I should get there early instead.

Of course I listened to the expert.  Change of plans it was. 

The three of us headed to El Potrillo first thing Sunday morning:

Apparently El Potrillo doesn't have little Asian girls come in often because when we walked in the door, there was a slight pause as everyone stopped to do a double take at us.

The birria menu was entirely in Spanish:

Our server was a young girl who spoke English, but she wasn't much help.  We gave up on asking for guidance and just winged it.

While waiting for our birria, we nibbled on the complimentary bean tacos:

Free bean tacos >>> free bread.  That's just a fact.

Then came the moment of truth.  We thought we'd ordered one large plate of birria de chivo ($11) and one large dry birria with rice and beans ($12).  But we were brought two plates of what looked like the same thing. 

Plate #1:

Plate #2:

No rice and beans in sight.  When we asked our server about it, she told us we had to order the rice and beans separately. 

Eh?  Obviously we'd missed something or made a mistake somewhere.

She did bring us some rice and beans though:

We also got a basket of hot tortillas:

In the end, we had no idea what exactly we ordered, but the birria was so freakin' good that we didn't care.  The goat stew was super goat-y, which I love.  The meat was tender and the soup so flavorful. 

I loved El Potrillo so much that when I went housesitting the second time in July, I took my parents there so that they could share in the love.

My mom isn't a big goat person, so we ordered a plate of nachos for her:

We got a small menudo rojo ($9) just to give it a try:

It was just alright.

The real star of the show was still the birria.  This time around, our server was more experienced and incredibly helpful.  Thanks to her, we were able to get a deep large bowl of birria ($12):

And a shallow large plate of dry birria ($11):

And this.  This is everything.  Consommé on the side in mugs:

Even though it was very, very salty, I couldn't stop sipping it like coffee.  Not sure if I was supposed to drink it directly from the mug like that, but the tiny spoon was taking too long.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

After two visits and some trial and error, I can say with complete confidence that I prefer my birria wet rather than dry.  However, I have by no means mastered the birria menu at El Potrillo.  I know you can order it by the pound.  I also know that it's possible to choose what cut of meat you want.  What I haven't figured out is what cut is best.  My goal is to one day get a bowl like the ones a lot of the older men in the restaurant had that came with giant bones sticking out of the broth. 

El Potrillo is a hidden gem.  One that I selfishly hope can remain hidden.  I love the dive-y feel.  I love that it's a family restaurant by day and a bar by night.  But most of all, I love their birria. 

While it would certainly be much easier to go to El Potrillo with a Spanish-speaking friend, I am proof that you can go without.  Be strong!  Be courageous!  Be prepared to wing it and for heaven's sake, go on a weekend because they don't serve birria during the week.

El Potrillo Restaurant & Bar
400 29th Ave
Oakland, CA 94620


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