500 Tacos: Blue Corn Harvest

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Blue Corn Harvest
700 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park (map), 512-528-0889, www.bluecornharvest.com
Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Thu; 11am-11pm Fri; 10am-11pm Sat; 9am-10pm Sun
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.28.15
 
If Blue Corn Harvest in Cedar Park feels familiar to Austinites, it probably starts with the cornbread muffins and honey butter. Owners Carlos Manzano and Santos Garcia cut their culinary teeth at Z’Tejas, part of the diaspora of talent spawned by Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso when they launched that chain more than 25 years ago with founding chef Jack Gilmore, who went on to form his own talent farm, Jack Allen’s. Blue Corn Harvest has been cultivating its own Southwestern style for three years, from al pastor quesadillas to oyster shooters with habanero aioli to blue corn-crusted salmon with tomatillo beurre blanc. For its Cedar Park clientele, Blue Corn will also shake a Mexican martini, chicken-fry a ribeye steak and bake mac and cheese with andouille sausage and chicken. All of it in a big, bright space with soft string lights overhead, a full bar cased in natural wood and local elementary school art on the wall.
 
 
The taco: Three-chili chicken skillet tacos
Blue Corn Harvest carries a full taco menu, including ground beef, pulled pork, al pastor, Baja shrimp and fried tilapia. Three-chili chicken gets both a “favorite” icon and a “spicy” icon. It works hard living up to the first icon, but the second one is a relative thing, and only the most sheltered palate would need a warning against spice this mild. Doesn’t matter. Because while the spice doesn’t generate heat, it generates rich, stewed flavors in an iron skillet of tender white and dark meat chicken. It’s chicken tinga with bigger chile flavor and more pan liquor, smothered in melted cheese and dressed with house-pickled jalapeño. The taco part is a do-it-yourself project, with a stack of small blue-corn tortillas, veggie rice and black beans with oregano and cotija cheese for your tabletop taco project. ($10.99 lunch/$11.99 dinner)
 
 
 Queso: For a reasonable $6.99, Blue Corn brings a skillet of smooth, melted queso with tomatoes and chiles, spiked with taco-seasoned ground sirloin and a side of jalapeños pickled in-house with an allspice afterglow.     
 Tortillas: In a nice environment like this, with a thorough menu and a veteran kitchen, not to mention “Blue Corn” in the name, I was surprised the restaurant makes none of its own tortillas, including the blue corn. But they’re steamed and soft and fresh, and that counts for something.
 Salsa: Blue Corn carries over one Z’Tejas tradition I always liked, the basket of yellow and blue corn tortilla chips. They’re thick and crisp, with the clean oil sheen of fresh frying. They come with a mild blender-style tomato red salsa with pronounced onion and cilantro and flecks of roasted pepper.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)