Fed Man 55: Black Star Co-op (43)

Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 43: Black Star Co-op
7020 Easy Wind Drive in the Midtown Commons center at Airport and North Lamar boulevards. 512-452-2337, www.blackstar.coop.
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday. 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.17.12
If all it did was make good beer, that might be enough for Black Star Co-op to win. But no, it has to run up the score with food to match. It’s a team effort, this cooperative brewpub, where anybody with an ideology and $150 can buy a voting share of the funhouse collective, but anybody with an ID and $5 can buy a beer.
And not just any beer, but beer pulled together from grain, yeast, water and hops right there in the Vertical Mixed Use utopian village of Midtown Commons. Beer with names like Waterloo, Vulcan and Recalcitrant Dockhand. Respectively, a wheat beer tarted up with peaches, a rye ale bristling with hops and a porter with an attitude. Just three of a dozen styles that might circulate through the brewhouse during the year, because beer is among the most ethereal of the arts, here today and drained tomorrow. The tap wall also represents the best Austin and Texas beers, from Jester King and the newcomer Rogness here to Deep Ellum from Dallas and Ranger Creek in San Antonio.
But the food is what qualifies Black Star Co-op for the Fed Man 55. Fish and chips, of course, with a rippling batter that cleaves to clean, flaky redfish without sliding away ($12). Or a simple burger ($10) elevated by robust Niman Ranch sirloin, a slab of molten cheddar and fat-grained beer mustard in a yeasty roll that defies the sweetness trend. Each comes with fries cut in the English style, lean and flat, with surface area to spare for salt, garlic and a spot on my list of Top 10 Austin Fries. Add chili if you must, but it’s better in a bowl by itself, done cowboy-style with just beef, chiles and onions for $8.
If you need a drinking buddy, Black Star can sell you one for $12, a snack plate with up to five kinds of cheese, cured meat and pickled vegetables with sauces, nuts, jam and bread. There are small plates with shrimp and grits ($9) and larger plates where even the fried chicken ($10) has a family-farm pedigree. The humble beer nut gets a makeover, sprinkled with chile powder and embedded in sheets of broken toffee for $4.
It’s all done in a minimalist space where the ductwork and fermentation tanks are on display like populist trophies, where the service staff doesn’t accept tips. A kind of service-industry spin on Marx: To each according to his needs. And right now, we need a beer.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants