500 Tacos: Hi Hat Public House

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Hi Hat Public House
2121 E. Sixth St. (map), 512-478-8700, www.hihatpublichouse.com
Hours: 11:30am-11pm Tue-Thu; 11:30am-midnight Fri; 11am-midnight Sat; 11am-6pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.02.15
This is my party, so we play by my rules, and I say that two tacos can count as one in the official 500 Tacos tally. At Hi Hat, that’s not a byproduct of indecision, but rather an acknowledgment of Hi Hat’s strength: All in service to the beer. And if getting a good deal on tacos and a pint is a way to get you behind a good glass of beer you’ve never tried before, then so be it.
The taco: Two and a pint; $10 on Tuesdays
No single one of three tacos I tried for this report — shrimp, steak or pork — stands alone on its merits, especially on storebought corn tortillas. But put two of them together on a Tuesday for $10 with a pint of beer, and their assets multiply. I’ll focus on the strongest two. The steak gets a firm sear with a tender bite, accented with sweet charred onions and a simple but fresh guacamole. The pork is pulled in salty and tender shreds and chunks with subtle green chile, barbecue style without the smoke or sauce, then dressed with crisp slaw and fresh avocado slices. They’re usually $3.75 apiece, just beyond the edge of a good value. The Tuesday special pushes them safely back from that edge. Strength in numbers.
 The third taco: A grilled shrimp taco was so heavily dusted with chile salt it tasted like shrimp-flavored popcorn from the mall. ($3.75)
 Beer: Hi Hat likes to show off the locals, and the star of the moment is Oasis Brewing Company. Its Long Hop Summer brings a bright grapefruit zest backed up by medium-bodied malt. Looking for Real Ale Kriek, Hops & Grain Concentrated Dark Matter or Austin Eastciders Gold Top? If they’re anywhere in town, chances are that Hi Hat is one of those anywheres. They might not have the most taps in town, but they make the couple dozen they do have really count.
 To go with that beer: A soft pretzel with mustard is the beerhall answer to chips and sauce. Hi Hat’s answer is less like a salted bronze pretzel and more like a knobby garlic knot, with neither the knot’s garlic nor the pretzel’s salt. But it’s crusty and chewy, and small cups of spicy mustard and buttery cheese fondue offer more than ornamentation. ($7; half-price during happy hour, from 4-7 Tue-Thu)
 Tortillas: Storebought corn tortillas, toasted on the flat-top, single instead of doubled, leaving one of the tacos to soak through and split along its backbone.
 Salsa: This mild, saturated chop of tomato, garlic and pepper has more stems and seeds than trailer-park weed, but it’s much more mellow.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)