I don’t know about you, but I get food crushes. Food that I fall in love with and actively crave. It is usually one particular dish that I will make a special trip to a restaurant repeatedly to get. It is almost always some version of comfort food. It isn’t always a main dish even. It can be a shared plate (that I won’t share) or a dessert. But it is a meal that brings me joy every time I get my hands on it, especially at Utah restaurants. So I will start writing about some of my local food crushes in hopes that you’ll fall in love with me.
My dad is from Mexico—Monterey specifically, un “Norteño.” My mom was a California girl whose stepdad was in the Navy, and she spent time in Japan on the military base. Which means I grew up with a literal melting pot of food and flavors in my home. One night might be refried black bean tostadas with fresh fried shells. Another night might be Japanese-style teriyaki chicken. There was always a ramen night each month with gussied-up instant ramen mixed with veggies, a soft-boiled egg, and a dash of chili flakes and toasted sesame oil. But each of these culinary traditions was translated through what we had on hand and were less traditional and more “inspired by” the originals. And they didn’t really mix. Which it turns out was a missed opportunity.
I didn’t know what a missed opportunity was until I stopped by De Los Muertos in Sugar House (with both my parents) for a late lunch. Billed as “a modern, fresh twist on Mexican favorites like tacos, burritos with breakfast burritos served All Day,” Named De Los Muertos (“Of the Dead”) to honor the dishes and recipes that were passed down from generation to generation by our chef/owner’s family, there is one dish that stands out, and I’m confident would wake the dead.
I’d been hearing great things but didn’t expect the perfect Mexican-Japanese fusion in a bowl to show up on the table, especially at a Utah restaurant. Enter Birria Ramen. Fresh ramen noodles cooked in a Birria topped with shredded, braised beef.
For those that haven’t experienced Birria before, it is closest to a slow-braised meat stew that can be made with beef, goat, lamb or chicken. Originating from Jalisco, the broth is rich, salty and laced with cumin and chilies. Like ramen broth, it takes time to make and coats the tongue. Quesabirria tacos have become a hit of late—with the tacos griddled with cheese and served with broth for dipping ala French dip.
The Birria Ramen at De Los Muertos is spicy and will stick to your ribs, the perfect cure for a chilly day. Served with fresh cilantro and raw onions, you can also get a hot tortilla on the side for extra dipping. You should dole out the crisp radishes as you make your way through the bowl so they stay crunchy and raw. And you should absolutely add fresh lime juice every few bites. Eating a bowl is like cuddling up in a blanket on your abuela’s couch and watching anime. It is comforting without trying too hard to be “fusion-y.” It is like they were always made to go together.
While there, end the meal with some churro beignets or grab a signature margarita.
If You Go…
De Los Muertos
1215 Wilmington Ave., Sugar House
Find more of Lydia’s food crushes at Utah restaurants, here!
See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah.