500 Tacos: Odd Duck

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Odd Duck
1201 S. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-433-6521, www.oddduckaustin.com
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Mon-Fri. Dinner 5-10pm Sun-Thu, 5-11 Fri-Sat. Brunch 10:30-2:30 Sun.
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 01.16.15
 
At the Austin Food & Wine Festival taco showdown in 2013, Odd Duck founder Bryce Gilmore made tacos with beets in place of tortillas. I am not making that up (proof). The beets were folded around masa, goat feta, spiced rice, chipotle and peanut sauce. At the same event in 2014, Bryce laid down a roasted “Goat Revolution” on a fresh flour tortilla. And that’s what makes Gilmore a galvanizing figure in Austin food: One minute he’s the guy putting dill pickle foam on a deviled egg. The next minute, he’s spit-roasting a goat on top of a converted fire engine. At his flagship restaurant Barley Swine, he’s more of the former, sending out small plates with spatulas to get that last schmear of redfish mousse. At the glass-and-barnwood diorama of Odd Duck the restaurant, Gilmore flashes back to the screened-in grillbox of Odd Duck the trailer, where pork-belly sliders shared the bill with creamy cauliflower soup and a sandwich with duck leg and turnip. Either way, Bryce Gilmore is a man who will do what he damn well pleases with a taco.
 
The taco: Fried snapper
Given the potential for chefly experimentation here, the lunchtime fish tacos are content with solid ingredients and good cooking. The $14 dish includes two thick blocks of breaded snapper (the fish changes regularly) on fresh flour tortillas. The breading was crisp and consistent, with the tight grit I associate with fried okra. Inside, the fish was moist and flaky, clean and firm. A nice departure from tilapia, the silty-fibered darling of the taqueria world, even if it means paying two or three times the going price. The fish does most of the work, dressed in spare reserve with a mild crema, chopped scallions, onion and an apple salsa. I’ll have to pretend all this wasn’t hiding under a pile of sprouts, because they taste like grass stains, and this isn’t 1983.
 Tortilla: Handmade soft flour tortilla with layered air pockets exhaling short breaths of steam, with toasted spots like freckles. An asset to any taco, no matter its provenance. And so much less pretentious than a spatula.
 Salsa: Odd Duck isn’t a motorcycle dealership. It’s a custom chopper shop, and the salsa is chopped to fit the rider. In this case, green apples to carry a lean mix of sweetness and tart contrast.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)