500 Tacos: Blackbird and Henry
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Blackbird and Henry
Hours: 11am-10pm Tue-Thu; 11am-11pm Fri-Sat; 11am-10pm Sun; closed Mon
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.08.15
Running this 500 Tacos series doesn’t have to mean dive joints, Tex-Mex and taco trucks every day. The taco is cultured enough to cross into a nice place like Blackbird and Henry, opened a year ago by chef Mark Schmidt — whose credits include the Rainbow Lodge in Houston, Aquaknox in Dallas and the late, great Cafe 909 in Marble Falls. Schmidt is one of the best practitioners of high-low food in Austin, and Blackbird and Henry is an expression of that. You can get a wicked burger or curry and a pint, even handmade English bangers. Or cross the posher line for a beet tartine, braised lamb shank or scallops. Me, I’m just glad I have a tortilla-borne excuse to include B&H in this series.
The taco: Baja fish tacos
The same redfish that goes into Blackbird and Henry’s fish and chips also lays the foundation for Baja fish tacos, with a different preparation. They’re dipped in milk, dusted with blue cornmeal and flash-fried for a delicately crisp exterior and flaky, steaming layers inside. They’re finished with cabbage and pico de gallo chopped to order, then striped with smoky chipotle mayo and plated with grilled lime. It’s a light, sophisticated union of cool snap and hot crunch. ($12 for two with borracho beans; available 11am-3pm Tue-Fri)
► Tortillas: Steamed, storebought doubled-up white corn.
► Salsa: Mark Schmidt likes hot sauce, and he has a collection of bottles, from Tapatio and El Yucateco to Winston’s Jamaican Mango and beyond.
► The Blackbird’s share: If fish tacos aren’t reason enough to visit B&H, then a toasted sourdough grilled cheese sandwich with tender leg of lamb, a thick burger with aged cheddar or a bowl of kedgeree with curried prawns, quail eggs and smoked trout certainly are. Each one is outstanding.
► Lengua franca: Schmidt says he judges a taqueria by how well they cook tongue, a conversation started by a mention of the Dos Amigos taco truck just north of his restaurant on Guadalupe. Putting his money where his ... lengua ... is, Schmidt cured a batch of beef tongue pastrami that qualifies as some of the best charcuterie in the city. With house pickles, grain mustard and pickled cipollini onions, it’s a menu special I feel guilty telling you about, because it'll be long gone by the time you read this.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)