500 Tacos: Corner at the JW Marriott

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Corner at the JW Marriott
110 E. Second St. (map), 512-608-4488, www.cornerrestaurantaustin.com
Hours: 11am-midnight daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 02.21.15

The specter of this mammoth JW Marriott hotel long ago swallowed Las Manitas, the little Mexican diner where being seated on the back patio meant walking through the steamy clatter of the kitchen. When the hotel moved from “coming soon” to “now open” on Feb. 13, it brought 1,000 hotel rooms and three new restaurants online: the walk-up Burger Bar, the Italian Osteria Pronto and the urban-rustic “Texas-inspired” Corner, where you can start with guacamole, then a lump crab salad and finally a $32 ribeye — or take a side trip for tacos made with short rib, carnitas or fish from the Gulf. You can’t blame the new guys for wanting a piece of Austin’s taco market, even if it meant rolling over a part of our Old Austin soul to get it.

The taco: Beef short rib
The fried shallot can be a little stick of dynamite, a contained explosion throwing off garlic and onion flavors like culinary shrapnel. On this taco, it’s a turbo-boost for short rib that runs lean and dry, with just a shadow of smoke to represent Texas in this homogenized space of glass, leather, stained concrete and flying saucer lights. But the shallots take as much as they give, lying with soggy, undercooked gravity over the beef. At $14 for three, the tacos are priced at Austin’s market rate for short rib. But it took a $9 first-aid kit to breathe real life into them (see below).

 Tortillas: The bottom of the menu says, “Keeping it local.” Commercial flour tortillas from the El Milagro factory are local. Local doesn’t always mean better.
 Salsa: The deep green chimichurri vinaigrette that came with the tacos started CPR, but it took the aforementioned first-aid kit to fully resuscitate them: a trio of dips with fried tortilla strips that included a chunky, roasted tomato salsa more sweet than hot, a modest avocado-onion-cilantro guacamole and good white queso with roasted poblanos. ($9)
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)