Birria Tacos and Burgers Highlight a Solid Blackbird Kitchen Menu

Grandview’s Woodlands Tavern and Blackbird Kitchen are a match made in taco heaven.

Bailey Trask
Modelo shrimp tacos and Nashville hot chicken tacos (rear) from the Blackbird Kitchen, inside Woodlands Tavern in Grandview.

Throughout the years, Woodlands Tavern has hosted a rotating cast of food partners, including Mikey’s Late Night Slice and Challah!, from its kitchen. In August 2020, Blackbird Kitchen took over food service at Woodlands, providing a much-needed boost in business during deep pandemic times. The bar/music venue may have finally found its match.

Founder Jack Kendall was executive chef for an Upper Arlington-based catering operation before launching Blackbird, which has made a name for itself with tacos and smashburgers. Blackbird takes special efforts to elevate its offerings beyond traditional fried pub grub, as evidenced by its house-pickled carrots, super-fresh pico de gallo and scratch-made condiments.

Guests can order food at the bar to eat indoors or on Woodlands’ shaded patio. Service is provided by the bar’s staff, who are attentive, timely and friendly, even during busy hours.

Kick things off with shareable appetizers such as rosemary-salted crispy potato wedges ($5) and two half-cobs of Mexican street corn ($6), smothered with cheese and onions and served with a wedge of lime.

The Modelo shrimp tacos (two for $10) are a must-try. The ensemble of two flour tacos, served on plastic plates, features piquant, tempura-battered shrimp, an artful drizzle of red chile and tomatillo aioli, pickled red onions, fresh cabbage, limes and pickled carrots. It could easily be a much more expensive meal at one of Cameron Mitchell’s joints.

Nashville Hot Chicken Tacos from the Blackbird Kitchen, inside Woodlands Tavern in Grandview. (Photo by Tim Johnson)

The Nashville hot chicken tacos (two for $8) are an experiment combining large, fried and not-that-spicy chicken breasts with the fresh elements of Mexican cuisine, with odd results. While the poultry was tender, I wanted more heat and would have happily traded the pico for slaw.

The birria options are among Blackbird’s most popular. Birria, a slow-cooked Mexican meat stew featuring guajillo peppers and a rich, red braising liquid, can be found both in taco form (two for $9) and in Blackbird’s birria crunchwrap ($12). As a secret Taco Bell fan, I couldn’t resist trying the latter. The giant, crispy tortilla was filled with layers of sweet, spicy and tangy shredded beef, plus rice, cheese, red chile aioli and lettuce and tomato to balance the decadence. Served with a bowl of birria sauce on the side, the crunchwrap could be shared and makes a perfect companion to a cold beer.

The birria crunchwrap is a riff on a Taco Bell staple.

With its super-thin, crisp-at-the-edges patties of Ohio-grown beef, the smashburger ($8 for a double) keeps its toppings to a minimum with great results. Beef patties meet a layer of cheese, a small pile of thinly sliced housemade pickles, stringlike shaved onions and nothing else. The tang of the onions combined with the patties and the pop of the pickles are all that’s needed to season this burger.

With fresh, affordable and filling options, Blackbird could easily be a standalone restaurant, and an intriguing one at that. (We can hope.) In the meantime, grab a beer at Woodlands and follow Blackbird on Instagram to get updates on the eatery’s Tuesday specials such as enchiladas suizas, chilaquiles and fish tacos.

A squeeze of citrus brightens the Modelo shrimp tacos.

Blackbird Kitchen

1200 W. Third Ave. (inside Woodlands Tavern), Grandview


This story is from the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.