Miguel Escobedo, the proprietor of the popular Al Pastor Papi taco truck, says he never had any intention of hopping on the “quesabirria bandwagon” — referring, of course, to the crispy, cheesy beef birria tacos that have taken over the Bay Area taco scene over the past year. Chasing a trend like that just seemed “tacky,” the chef tells Eater SF.
Still, Escobedo — who’s best known for his al pastor tacos — couldn’t help but think that one of his personal favorite dishes, Filipino chicken adobo, was especially well suited to getting the quesabirria treatment. And so, after some experimentation, this week Escobedo is rolling out his new “quesadobo” taco: tangy-sweet chicken adobo, melted Oaxacan cheese, and calamansi-vinegar slaw tucked inside a crispy tortilla, with a dusting crushed chicharrones on top. The tacos ($5.99) come with a side of adobo consomé for dipping — the soy sauce- and vinegar-based braising liquid, basically, doctored up with some additional chicken broth.
“It’s a great bite,” Escobedo says. “It fulfills everything that a quesabirria taco should be, but with a Filipino twist.”
For now, the quesadobo tacos will be available for two days only, at Al Pastor Papi’s pop-up at Speakeasy’s Bayview/Hunters Point taproom, from 2–7 p.m. this Thursday and Friday — though Escobedo says he’s only doing a small batch of the quesadobo each day, so it’s likely they’ll sell out in the first hour or two.
The idea that Filipino food and Mexican food might go well together isn’t news to anyone who has, say, waited on line for a burrito from Señor Sisig, one of the Bay Area’s most popular food trucks for going on a decade now. And Escobedo himself has been experimenting with Mexican-Filipino fusion since before it was trendy, drawing inspiration from dishes he was introduced to by his wife, who is Filipina — Escobedo refers to their two kids, affectionately, as “Mexipinos.”
In 2009, when Escobedo was the chef and co-owner at Papalote, the restaurant held a benefit to raise money to support victims of the severe flooding that resulted after a big typhoon hit the Philippines that year, and Escobedo — in a stroke of genius — created a “Mexipino burrito” for the event: chicken adobo, garlic fried rice, and diced tomatoes, all rolled up inside a flour tortilla like you would do with any other burrito.
The burrito was a hit. It wound up being a staple on Papalote’s menu for years, and its popularity even earned Escobedo an appearance on the Filipino-American talk show Adobo Nation, making him one of the first non-Filipinos to appear on the show, which also airs in the Philippines. “My wife’s mom was very proud of me,” Escobedo says. “A lot of lolas were very proud of me. So I think I earned my Filipino badge.”
Escobedo, who is also a well-known DJ, explains that many of his friends within the Bay Area hip-hop DJ community are Filipino, and when they embraced that chicken adobo burrito, “it just became a hip thing” — a small precursor, perhaps, to the popularity of later businesses like Señor Sisig and the Lumpia Company, which have hip-hop connections of their own.
The quesadobo tacos are just the latest evolution, then, in Ecobedo’s personal fascination with “Mexipino” cooking. The idea stemmed in part from the chef’s feeling that despite how classic a dish it is within Filipino cuisine, chicken adobo wasn’t really getting its proper due in the mainstream food scene. And it turned out to be the perfect kind of stew to serve in this quesabirria-inspired format, he says. All of the flavors balance just each other out: the sweetness of the chicken adobo, the acidity of the calamansi slaw, the savoriness of the chicharrones, and the strong salty, vinegary hit of the adobo dip.
After this week’s debut, Escobedo says he’ll likely run the quesadobo tacos as an occasional special. But they might serve as a preview for a future standalone business: Someday, Escobedo says, he’d love to open a “Mexipino” restaurant or food truck — one where the taquero’s chicken adobo will stand front and center.
The Al Pastor Papi pop-up at the Speakeasy taproom, at 1195 Evans Avenue, will run from 2–7 p.m. on Thursday, September 10 and Friday, September 11. The truck will serve its full menu, but only a small batch of quesadobo tacos each day.