Tacos Mexico owner Alex Rosales didn’t know anything about yak meat, nor did he really know anything about social media personality Jeffree Star.
Now he’s a fan of both.
Yak meat, and the social media star who introduced him to it, have both been game-changers for his family owned and operated business in Casper, which has been serving Mexican food for the last 13 years.
Tacos Mexico is one of three Casper restaurants serving yak meat dishes. The other two are Firerock Steakhouse and J’s Pub and Grill.
“Initially (Star) came in and he was a customer before anything,” Rosales told Cowboy State Daily. “And I wasn’t aware of who he was. My kids were (aware), so they kind of filled me in a little bit.”
One day when Rosales came out to check on customers, Star happened to be there so Rosales asked him how everything was.
“He’s like, ‘Yeah, I really like the vibe here,’” Rosales recalled. “‘I really like the friendly people and how you do business, you know.’”
Six months later, Star was back, talking about his plans to start raising yak at Star Valley Ranch and sell the meat.
“But I had no idea what a yak was either,” Rosales said. “So there again, I had to do a little bit of research.”
A Meat All Its Own
Yak meat is a cooking experience all its own, Rosales said.
“It’s super good, but you cannot overcook it. Because it’s, like, lean, lean meat. Most people want to treat it like it was regular beef, and that’s where they kind of fail,” he said.
Rosales tried several different recipes, playing around with the yak cuts Star had given him before narrowing it down to two ideas he would be OK with serving.
But then, overnight, he had a brilliant, new idea.
“Why not try birria? Birria style,” Rosales said. “So, we started working with that and, within a couple of days, we already knew that was going to be the recipe because the taste of it brought out the taste of the yak and the birria-style recipe really complimented it, you know.”
Birria in Mexico is often made with goat or lamb, Rosales added, and consommé is often served as a dipping sauce. The meat is rolled up in a tortilla, then dipped in the consommé, similar to the way a French dip sandwich would be eaten.
“Everybody asks for the broth now,” Rosales added. “So, we just immediately give it to them.”
Birria is typically a strong, bold dish, but for yak, which is a sweeter meat, Rosales does things a little differently.
“With birria, you have to kind of let it sit there for all the spices and everything to kind of sink in,” he said. “You know, kind of if you were to marinate something, kind of similar to that.”
Yak meat birria was an overnight success at Tacos Mexico, Rosales said.
The tender meat with the spices has a flavor that’s all its own, and it is quite delicious, especially with the broth.
“It has created, you know, like a kind of cult following,” Rosales said. “Which is really cool. We’ve had experiences where people have literally driven five, six hours out of their way to come in to try it.”
Since then, Rosales has added new yak dishes to the menu, given its instant popularity. These range from chimichanga and tacos to a huge burrito.
The newest creation, meanwhile, has eclipsed the popularity of all others. It is the yak birriamen — a riff on the Mexican ramen bowl, which has become very popular in many southern states.
“It is noodles with the Yak, asadero cheese, lime, cilantro, onion — it’s been super good,” Rosales said, adding that it’s now a top seller.
“There was a food critic from Los Angeles here (Thursday),” Rosales said. “I had no idea who she was. And she’s, you know, ‘I’ve eaten all over the place, and you’ve got something really good going on here with your birria recipe,’ so she liked it. She tried the ramen bowl, and she ate every single little (thing in it).”
Star, himself, is a big fan of the new Ramen bowls, Rosales added.
“He went crazy when I gave him the ramen to try,” Rosales said. “He did a whole video, a whole blog thing on his social media. I don’t know how many social media pages he has, but it was really cool.”
The first blog from Rosale’s restaurant hit over 1 million views, Rosales added, while a second one, which was specifically about Tacos Mexico, has just under 2 million views worldwide.
An American Dream Gone Viral
Rosales, who is an American citizen, came to the United States from humble beginnings in Mexico.
“We started from the bottom, you know,” Rosales said. “We struggled severely the first few years. We lived in rundown houses, and the neighborhoods were really bad.”
Twenty-five years ago, when he had the opportunity to move to Casper, he did it and hasn’t looked back. He has worked hard, first leasing a kitchen for several years from a local bar and saving all of his money so he could buy his own little American dream.
Over the last 13 years, Rosales has been restoring and upgrading that dream, turning what was once rundown and dilapidated into a space that is vibrant and attractive.
“Casper has given me the chance to, you know, to be honest with you, to bring to pass my life’s dreams to be independent and self-sufficient,” Rosales said. “There’s so much opportunity here in Wyoming. It’s just you have to be willing to work hard.”
The experience working with Star, meanwhile, has been yet another amazing step on this American dream.
“The opportunity to work with Jeffree, man, it’s been unbelievable,” Rosales said. “He’s a great businessman, very professional, and he’s been great to us. He’s pretty much given us the freedom to experiment with (the yak meat). He didn’t come in and say you have to do this, this and that. He gave us some meat, and we have created those dishes, and man, they’ve been a huge success.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.