500 Tacos: Garcon’s

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
500 E. 51st St. next to the Duval Market, Austin (map), 512-981-3236, www.garconsatx.com
Hours: 8am-2pm Tue-Sun for breakfast and lunch; 5-10pm Thu-Sat for dinner
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.03.15
UPDATE: Garcon's has closed.
For Patrick Wickett, the hardest part of making his duck confit taco is cutting into the crisp golden finish of the bronzed leg quarter. Like destroying art to make new art. And Garcon’s — the trailer Wickett opened on a grassy lot off Duval and 51st in early August — puts the “art” in “artisan,” with carefully crafted breakfast tacos on handmade duck-fat tortillas, a seared duck breast salad, a pork belly confit sandwich, shrimp and grits, even mussels and fries. All of it served on bright white ceramic dishes with steel flatware, brought by the cook to picnic tables with little corrugated roofs while classical music plays from the trailer. Wickett, who cooked at the Italian bistro Cherry Street and with chef Andrew Francisco at Mettle, serves breakfast tacos, omelets, eggs Benedict and shrimp and grits until 2 p.m. Lunch starts at 11, with sandwiches, salads and mussels. Dinner runs from 5-10 Thursday-Saturday, with a menu including roasted chicken, mussels and fish meuniere.
Taco A: Duck confit
As beautiful as that untouched golden duck might be, its full depth comes when it’s shredded by hand and laid over expertly scrambled eggs with a sauté of cremini mushrooms, shavings of grana padano cheese and crème fraîche that Wickett makes fresh and takes outsized — and justified — pride in. It’s an interplay of simple technique and flavor, all accomplished on a pancake griddle and two induction hotplates. Rich and fatty game-bird swerve from the duck, salt and pepper and substance from the eggs, the twang of the cheese and the ambassadorial earthiness of the mushrooms. On a duck-fat tortilla that folds and crackles in flour-dusted service to it all, this is one of the best tacos in this series, and an unequivocal value at $3.
Taco B: Beef shoulder
Beef and blue cheese are natural companions, and when the beef is sliced thinly on the diagonal and seared medium rare and the strong cheese is meted out in the right proportions, it turns into a rich partnership. At the base of this elegant taco is a that powdery duck-fat tortilla, eggs with more folds than samurai steel and potatoes in a precise brunoise dice that could have been cut with that steel. ($3)
 Tortillas: Real fat will forever be the thing that separates classic tortillas from the wannabes. These duck-fat flour tortillas are as delicate as pastry but sturdy enough for the streets.
 More breakfast tacos: The great thing about a good cook is how well that cook handles the simple things. Things like a taco with roasted broccoli in al dente florets with cremini mushrooms razored in uniform winglets and aged cheddar, precisely draped over omelet-style eggs. At Garcon’s, even a taco with eggs, pinto beans, potatoes and cheese is presented on its own ceramic plate. ($2.50 each)
 Salsa: Wickett makes a fresh pico de gallo, but it’s not where the real energy goes, and all these tacos are fine without it.
 Shrimp and grits: To a man wandering the taco badlands for eight months, this bowl (yes, real ceramic bowl) of shrimp and grits is like a mirage. The first shimmer you see rises from three big tail-on shrimp, blackened to a firm resiliency in a spicy toss of tomatoes and peppers. But what turns illusion into reality is a base of grits with a balance of robust graininess and smooth, buttery flavor. ($10)
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)