500 Tacos: Fork & Vine
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Fork & Vine
UPDATE: Fork & Vine has closed.
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 02.28.15
With Edison bulbs, polished blond wood, a pedigreed chef and its own sommelier, we can agree that Fork & Vine is not a taco joint. But there’s taqueria in its blood. Fork & Vine’s parent group runs the Mighty Bird taco shops. The space, though rebuilt from the studs up, used to be Casa Chapala, and Serranos before that. And in a not-so-secret other life, sommelier Chris Howell owns the Fat Cactus, a trailer specializing in Navajo frybread tacos. The menu at Fork & Vine is wide and whimsical enough for goat cheese grits, fried alligator, short rib Wellington — and scallop tacos — from chef Camden Stuerzenberger, who trained in Texas, worked in New Orleans and led the kitchen at Bess Bistro.
The taco: Scallops
The alabaster delicacy of the scallop makes it a rare taco attraction, and I’m including it in this series primarily for that reason, because it’s a fussy houseguest otherwise. The aroma of after-catch arose from the plate, and the scallops were closer to poached than seared. But the dayboat vapors dissipated and scallop-y sweetness took over, complemented by fresh avocado, cotija cheese and cabbage, with the biggest assist from tangy-hot sriracha aioli. The “taco” part of this dish was also its weakness, because the 3-inch tortillas left the scallops tumbling out like Yahtzee dice. ($13 for three at lunch until 3pm; $9 at happy hour 3-6pm Tue-Fri)
► More tacos: Short rib’s fatty fiber makes it a good taco filling, with enough cohesion to allow height and weight even on these small tortillas. The tender Niman Ranch beef is a rich balance of fat and lean down the middle, with an unlikely salsa of shrimp, avocado and onion for the sharp notes. ($13 for three at lunch; $9 happy hour)
► On the side: Fork & Vine looks southward for inspiration, but not all the way to the border. We’re not at Chapala or Serranos anymore. Enter goat cheese grits. The overeasy egg on top dominates at first, giving way to flavors that paint the town beige. The grits are the dun color of oatmeal with a consistency like cottage cheese, throwing off bits of husk like popcorn. Suddenly missing rice and beans. ($9)
► Tortillas: These three-inch handmade corn tortillas have a nice pliant stretch and mellow corn flavor. I’d double them up for more structurally sound tacos.
► Salsa: The shrimp salsa and sriracha aioli are purpose-built for their jobs. No other salsas on hand.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)