To get to Birrieria Tijuana, you drive to Burien, past stretches of suburbia and teriyaki joints, until you reach an unassuming parking lot that serves a Goodwill store and the Guadalupe Market, with its flashing marquee advertising "carniceria" and "panaderia" and "menudo." Inside the Mexican marketplace, you'll find towering stacks of jumbo white hominy cans, a rainbow of Caprice shampoos, star-shaped pinatas with tassels of tissue paper streaming from their points, and, at last, a striped archway with a sign reading "taqueria" that lets you know you've arrived.
Beneath a painted mural of a Mexican village scene, the flow of people queuing up in front of the DolEx money transfer kiosk never seems to slow or stop. The cafeteria-like blue tables and bench seats are populated by construction workers on their lunch breaks, families celebrating birthday parties, and toddlers gnawing on tamarindo sticks. A no-nonsense woman in an apron printed with the phrase "Deja tu lo guapa, soy una mamá bien chingona" ("Besides my good looks, I'm also a badass mom") takes orders at the counter.
The heart of Birrieria Tijuana's menu is, of course, the birria: beef slow-simmered with spices and chiles until it is so gloriously sloppy and greasy and napkin-eviscerating as to be soporific. This meat is then arranged in various near-interchangeable permutations of griddled corn tortillas and gooey white cheese, running the gamut from tacos to mulitas (meat and cheese sandwiched by tortillas).
One of the very best things you can order here is the vampiro, an open-faced taco with a layer of melted cheese and a stratum of shredded beef atop a fried tortilla. (The bloodthirsty name is owing to the tortillas' tendency to furl inward like bat wings as they toast.) If you're lucky, you'll get one where the cheese has crisped up into burnished, lacy, frico-like edges the color of a penny. Similarly, the oozy, crunchy queso tacos are a satisfying showcase for the same flavors. The nectar-like aguas frescas, made with actual fresh fruit in flavors like tamarind and melon, are worthy of note all on their own.
Whatever your order may be, it requires a cup of the palliative consommé, a beef soup that arrives mouth-burningly hot in a Styrofoam container, pools of fat shimmering on the surface. People who know what they're doing dip their tacos in this. Your meal also wants the freshness and brightness of chopped cilantro, onions, radishes, lime, and pickled vegetables—heaped generously in massive plastic tubs at the condiment bar—to counteract all the richness. Jars of salsa macha (a fiery red chili oil) and squeeze bottles of fresh red and green salsa sit at each table, for all your doctoring needs.
At the end of the whole affair, your table littered with foil and paper and napkins reduced to transparent tatters, you'll feel tired but happy, consecrated in a blaze of orange oil. It's an experience that's worth traveling out of your way to enjoy.