500 Tacos: 416 Bar & Grille
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
416 Bar & Grille
Hours: 10am-midnight daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.15.15
The 416, which opened in February of this year, is a neighborhood diner in some ways. Burgers, grilled cheese, fried chicken, corned beef hash, draft beer. In other ways, it steps outside that quaint construct with stylish certainty. Curved glass and steel facade, polished concrete floors, grayscale paint scheme, pop art plastic chairs. With that dynamic tension, it could be the model home of the Austin restaurant subdivision, with the father and son team of John and Colin Jurey as developers.
The taco: Breakfast taco with chorizo and eggs
Because this is a template for the Austin high-low diner experience, there’s breakfast all day long: Benedict, hash, huevos rancheros, French toast — and breakfast tacos. Nothing fancy. Just eggs and salsa and ham, chorizo or bacon with white cheese or queso. The personality edge goes to chorizo, ground extra fine with a payload of spices from the red side of the rack. A smart steel frame keeps the taco above the chorizo’s torrid orange oil slick. What’s left behind is enough juice and flavor to saturate a fresh, bright yellow scramble of eggs fortified with thick queso. ($4/a better deal at $7 for two)
► Bacon and eggs: Where the chorizo plays with fire, bacon follows the rules of bacon: not too thin or thick, a little smoky, a little sweet, fried crisp to order. Not a showboat breakfast taco, just solid execution, from the fluffy eggs to the quality grated cheese. ($4/$7 for two)
► Tortillas: The 416 doesn’t make its own tortillas, but it uses a thick, layered commercial flour tortilla that could pass for handmade. It’s better than the single-layer commercial yellow corn tortillas.
► Salsa: A mild, thoroughly blender-fied red salsa comes across like Mexican marinara. There’s a spicier red, too, one that’s thicker, with more acidic bite to balance the tomato’s innate sweetness.
► Deconstructed nachos: All-day breakfast says “diner” all day long. But when your nachos are broken down into five compartments, you’re speaking another language. And you’re painting yourself with a target for pretense. If so, it’s pretense at the right price, the same $6 you’d pay for Velveeta queso even at a dive-in taqueria. But no taco dive makes thick flour tostone shingles like these, and having sour cream, salsa, pico and thick green chile queso in separate cups means this plate can be whatever you need it to be: nachos, chips and salsa, queso or a condiment bar for a table full of breakfast tacos. ($6)
► Fire and ice: Booze and breakfast tacos. Make mine the 512 Matador, with smoky mescal, sweet pineapple juice and muddled jalapeño for a margarita with a bandolier strapped across its chest. ($9)
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)