March 6, 2015
By: Mike Sutter
Swift’s Attic is an elusive bird. Its Congress Avenue perch — from the carpeted speakeasy stairs going up to the exposed brick walls and weathered wood floors to the long leather banquette and shabby chic accents — suggests the kind of cloistered dining suited to expense accounts and lobbyists. Puffy tacos and a Bowling Alley Burger put a party hat on that perception, executed with a sly blend of precision and fancy. And you thought this was just a taco series. (See where Swift’s Attic landed on my 55 Best Restaurants list)
The taco: SA’s Puffy Tacos
When sous chef Zack Northcutt told me that Swift’s Attic really does use pigs’ tails for its pigtail puffy tacos, I said something about “cute and curly.” He corrected that, saying they’re nothing like that, painting a picture of a tail stout enough to wag the hog. At Swift’s, they braise the tail and pick the meat, which comes out in tangled fibers with crispy edges, rich with fat and salted purpose. That purpose is serving the taco’s co-star, a brindled puck of housemade masa fried soft and hot in the middle with a crisp, crumbled corona. The oil from the meat and masa makes this a full-drip street snack in this diorama environment, crowned with pickled onion and citrus salsa with a sidecar of broiled grapefruit. It rides the line between gordita and taco, but the benefit of the doubt tastes terrific. ($6)
Tortillas: A flat tortilla would seem out of place here. The fat little masa cakes suit the personality of Swift’s and the San Antonio tacos that inspired them.
Salsa: Citrus is tragically underused for salsa. Swift’s Attic puts grapefruit to use for a refreshingly acidic companion to jalapeño and pickled onion.
Not a taco: Swift’s Bowling Alley Burger transports the messy Thousand Island and grilled onion burger of Middle America to this urbane setting with fine, knobby beef and a house-baked brioche bun toasted on the outside and soft as a buttered roll inside. Served with crispy handcut fries for $11.