Food review: Birria tacos, burgers and thick-cut fries are dynamite at Blackbird Kitchen

G.A. Benton
Special to The Columbus Dispatch
The birria tacos at Blackbird Kitchen

“Have you had their tacos before?” asked a smiling young woman recently from a table next to mine at Woodlands Tavern near Grandview Heights. This gentle interrogator was referring to the Tuesday specials featured by Blackbird Kitchen, the eatery stationed inside Woodlands Tavern. 

I replied that I hadn’t tried anything from Blackbird Kitchen yet. Because 20 minutes had elapsed since, as required, I’d placed my Blackbird food order with a Woodlands bartender and I’d unwisely skipped lunch, I might’ve sounded more testy than I’d meant to.

My undeterred dining neighbor then confessed that she’d ordered from Blackbird the previous weekend and had returned already because eating Blackbird’s tacos had greatly improved the disappointing day she’d been having. 

“Their tacos are worth a wait,'' she said.

The baja fish tacos photographed at Blackbird Kitchen on Thursday, October 15, 2021.

In five more minutes, my dining neighbor and new best friend — was she a mind-reading therapist, too? — was proven correct. 

Those tacos were delivered to me on Woodlands’ roomy patio (firepit, plants, umbrella-shaded sturdy tables, sports on TV, generally upbeat rock tunes played at generally unobtrusive volumes) where I was enjoying the uncommonly warm October weather. 

The spruced-up, convivial old neighborhood watering hole offers an accommodating interior, too, with plenty of seating, multiple sports-tuned TVs, a live-music stage, a pool table and 30 draft beers. 

Like many local eateries that dabble in nouveau-style tacos, Blackbird features “taco Tuesday” specials. Unlike several such Tuesday specials, Blackbird’s tacos were, well, worth a wait.

Burria crunchwrap at Blackbird Kitchen

The eatery reveals its weekly changing Tuesday menu on social-media platforms (check Facebook and Instagram); two or three tacos will usually be offered — some are rather traditional — along with a couple, often fusion-taqueria-style preparations, such as spicy macaroni-and-cheese croquettes enriched with slow-cooked Mexican-style beef (birria atomic fireballs, $8).  

I’d happily reorder any item I sampled on the Tuesday I visited. These include one of the biggest and best — if messiest — fish tacos around ($4): A huge plank of crunchy beer-battered cod (a la good fish and chips) enhanced by crisp red cabbage, crema, citrus, spicy pico de gallo plus an above-average flour tortilla.

Any doubts I had about a smoked mushroom taco ($4) evaporated shortly after biting into that unlikely but inspired combo of campfire-scented shiitakes, spicy street-corn-like accents, melted cheese and good warm soft corn tortillas.  

The distinct carnitas taco ($3) was another pleasant surprise: flavorful pork strands that had been deeply griddled into a crinkly mass resembling dark-cooked hash. A notably tangy salsa verde supplied flattering counterpoints. 

Although the crispy birria tacos ($8 for two) are a menu staple and not a Tuesday special, they should be labeled as special. And messy. 

The Fantasma burger with crispy potato wedges at Blackbird Kitchen

But they’re worth every finger-cleaning, stain-preventing napkin you’ll need (and you’ll need plenty) to navigate the crunchy, oversized corn tortillas drenched in a mole-like sauce (which also comes on the side, rather than the customary consome) and packed-to-leaking with loads of tender, juicy beef and melted cheese.

Visiting on a non-Tuesday proved those birria tacos weren’t a fluke as Blackbird’s small regular menu offered other impressive dishes. Like one of the better griddle-smashed burgers and orders of thick-cut fries I’ve tried this year. 

The two locally sourced beef patties on my enormous Fantasma burger ($9.50) were flawless: juicy, great-tasting meat with lacy, super-crisp edges. The many accompaniments — house brioche roll, jalapenos, house-pickled onions, melted good cheese, creamy-spicy Fantasma sauce — held up their end of the bargain, too.

Ditto for the crispy potato wedges ($5), a heaving serving of first-rate fries with crunchy golden-brown exteriors and creamy interiors. Unlike my Tuesday tacos, the burger and fries — plus Blackbird’s smooth-yet-zippy roasted garlic hummus ($6) — arrived mere moments after I’d ordered them. I greatly appreciated this, but that food would have been worth, you know, a little wait.              


Blackbird Kitchen at Woodlands Tavern

Where: 1200 W. 3rd Ave., Northwest Side

Contact: 614-266-8092, www.woodlandstavern.com

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays

Price range: $5 to $9.50

Ambience: an order-at-the-bar eatery located in a convivial neighborhood tavern with a roomy patio  

Children's menu: no

Reservations: no

Accessible: yes

Liquor license: full bar 

Quick click: excellent “taco Tuesday” specials supplement a small regular menu starring first-rate burgers and fries at this under-the-radar, overachieving operation