One of St. Pete’s newest pop-up kitchens is making birria tacos unlike any you’ve ever had before. The Birria Bros, owned and run by Mohamad Elbanna, has brought Palestinian tacos to Tampa Bay. The pop-up taco concept makes its next appearance this Saturday at 7 pm outside Coastal Creative in conjunction with the art show hosted by Populoum. Tickets for the show are not required to order from Birria Bros.
We’ll dive deeper into the Birria Bros backstory in a moment, but first, there’s the immediate question that comes to mind: what exactly is Palestinian birria? In short, it’s a heartier, thicker, and far more flavorful version of the traditional birria consommé made for dunking tacos. Think more along the lines of stew, not broth.
The Birria Bros recipe is a taco-friendly twist on Fasoolia Baida – a Middle Eastern white bean stew Elbanna grew up on – braised with all-halal beef for eight hours. In addition to most of the standard ingredients, Elbanna’s recipe adds in a trio of chilis and various other Mexican spices.
The beef itself is marinated for 30 hours in Elbanna’s spice-laden marinade. Then, when it’s time to eat, he whips up massive, cheesy, crispy, and beef-filled tacos on the flat top to pair with the consommé.
Dip, bite, enjoy, and repeat. And maybe don’t make plans for any physical activity for an hour or two.
Family-inspired eats become a St. Pete sensation
Elbanna, like so many others, tried birria early on when the craze started sweeping the nation. However, he found the dip to be kind of bland and thin, no matter how many different places he tried. As a career chef – and the son of restaurateurs – he already had some ideas for improvement noodling around. But it was when his seven younger brothers (for whom the business is named) begged him to make them birria that he first tried out the Palestinian-inspired recipe.
Inspired by his family’s roots in Palestine, he gave the spicy take on Fasolia a whirl.
“My first shot around, it was better than anything I’ve ever tasted,” Elbanna said. “We started making it every other weekend.”
Around a year ago, living in Tampa, Elbanna wanted to see if his birria recipe could catch on outside of his home. And with all of his family back in Philadelphia, he was on his own. So, he reached out to a halal group on facebook to see if anyone would be interested in ordering his tacos for delivery.
“The people in the Muslim community, when they see someone who knows what they’re doing, they’re willing to take a chance,” Elbanna said. “I had 50 families ready to make an order without ever talking to me or meeting me.”
For the next month, he drove all over delivering his birria to families throughout Tampa Bay. That popularity, he decided, was the proof of concept he was looking for, and so The Birria Bros pop-up was born.
Food truck and supper club plans coming soon for Birria Bros
Now, the 29-year-old’s pop-up is gaining serious traction, and he’s hoping to open a food truck in the near future as the demand grows. Of course, while he’s solo for the moment, having fewer outings may be a blessing in disguise.
With the amount of time it takes Elbanna to prepare the beef, the consommé, and everything alongside it, it requires the better part of a week’s preparation for Birria Bros to hit the streets.
“When I hand you a meal, it took me four days and four sleepless nights to make that plate of tacos,” he said. “I live for it.”
And the plates, Elbanna is quick to assure, are fully loaded. The tacos themselves are huge and overflowing, paired with the hearty consommé and a side of rice and beans. If you know you’ll be eating Birria Bros that day, it may be best to skip lunch.
“They’re heavy tacos,” Elbanna said. “Two with the rice and beans is hefty. Three will knock anyone on their ass.”
Find great tacos alongside local art.
At the moment, Birria Bros doesn’t have a set schedule, as the pop-up is taking on events as requested and as fits in with the calendar. In the immediate future, the tasty tacos will be available at the next three Populoum art shows. “Enigma” is hosted this Saturday, August 13, at Coastal Creative at 7 pm, “Juicy” takes place at Five Dueces Galleria on August 27 at 7 pm, and “Blue Dreams and Solitude” is hosted at Coastal Creative on September 3 at 7 pm.
“Having people want my food has been nothing but a blessing,” Elbanna said. “It’s a great way to be in the community. What better way to do that than with food and art?”
At this weekend’s pop-up, Elbanna said he is debuting Jackfruit Birria, and other than the 100% all-halal beef, everything is vegetarian. The cilantro lime rice and the Palestinian white bean stew are both vegetarian, as well. Also be on the lookout for his birria grilled cheese, and the soon-to-come Palestinian supper club.
To keep up with The Birria Bros and more upcoming pop-ups (he is announcing four more in the near future) follow them on Instagram.
What to read next:
- Resident uses AI to envision a car free downtown St. Pete
- Meanchi’s Peruvian food truck celebrates grand opening in Grand Central
- I Love the Burg launches membership for trying new experiences in St. Pete
- Newly opened and upcoming restaurants in St. Pete