500 Tacos: Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro
419 Colorado St., Austin (map), 512-271-2474, www.lonesomedoveaustin.com
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Mon-Sat. Dinner 4:30-midnight Mon-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.01.15
Chef Tim Love is a man’s man at the Austin Food & Wine Festival. He works 16-hour days, drinks tequila while he plays field marshal to 100 grills, and he’s as salty as a cougar-bar swinger. And man, does he make a mean taco, something he’s proven against chefs from across the country at the festival’s Rock Your Taco competition. First in 2013, when he brought antelope bulgogi with kimchi. In 2014, he made a crispy shell like a Jack in the Box taco, if Jack stuffed his taco with elk and foie gras. And this year, he took home the champion’s Stratocaster with braised oryx and fried beef tendon.
And Tim Love loves Austin. So much so that he opened the second branch of Fort Worth’s Lonesome Dove Western Bistro here this year. Lonesome Dove took over the old Kenichi spot, which sits next to another celebrity outpost: Brian Malarkey’s Searsucker, which itself took over for Carlos Santana’s Maria Maria. Our own celebrity restaurant row.
Lonesome Dove is tastefully appointed for a place run by the grownup version of a boy with a BB gun. Leather chairs, leather placemats, white tablecloths, antlers on the bar, iron Edison chandeliers overhead and trophy mounts of some of the animals that might be on your plate. Protein like that isn’t cheap, and Lonesome Dove’s expensive at lunch and dinner both. But for a taste of what Tim Love’s cooking — or really, what his appointed surrogate’s cooking — the restaurant does a $12 “Capitol Lunch” with a different dish every day from 11:30 to 2:30. And Tuesdays are for tacos, a different one every week.
The taco: Brisket
With all that buildup, I’d hoped the Taco Tuesday wheel of fortune at Lonesome Dove would land on something more exotic than brisket. Not that brisket is bad luck, mind you, here in barbecue country. But these precise little cubes are too lean, too smooth, too dependent on sweet and smoky barbecue sauce to match what we’ve come to expect from pitmaster’s brisket. And from Tim Love. But for $12 in this fine place, it’s a ticket I’d buy every Tuesday just to see what shows up in those tortillas. ($12 for two tacos with a side of faro, green chiles and corn like a savory cowboy’s breakfast)
 More to Love: For something to start, the waitress let me pull a Chris Rock: “How much for just one rib?” For four or five dollars apiece, she brought one each of Lonesome Dove’s deviled crabs, rabbit-rattlesnake sausages and wild boar ribs. The first is like a Gulf crabcake built inside the shell, with meat pulled to an overdone floss and finished with broiled breadcrumbs and the Dove’s own sriracha-style hot sauce ($10 for a full order). The sausage has a nice pepper halo over two of the other other white meats, predator and prey together for a taste of the wild. It’s served on a neat layer of micro-fine potato and manchego fried like a tiny stack of winning poker chips ($15/full). The boar rib is much better proof of Tim Love’s affection for fire, with meat that separates like oiled tectonic plates under a firm but forgiving crust with sweet, aromatic barbecue sauce and full-bore escabeche ($12/full)
 Tortillas: Storebought single-layer white corn.
 Salsa: None beyond a simple dress of reduced barbecue sauce and sautéed red peppers.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)