Dining Guide to Local Austin Restaurants
DINING PICK: ODD DUCK
A few years ago, Odd Duck was the hottest food trailer in town. Now it’s the hottest new restaurant. Yep, Odd Duck is all grown up with floors and walls and valet parking. What a difference a few years make.
Until 2011, the Odd Duck trailer sat on a vacant lot on South Lamar, serving up innovative fare fit for fine dining. Then chef/owner Bryce Gilmore shut it down to focus on his new venture, Barley Swine. Now Odd Duck is back. But it ain’t no trailer. A stone’s throw from its old parking lot, Odd Duck is now prominently poised in front of the swanky Gibson Flats complex, decked out with full length windows overlooking the bustling street life and downtown skyline.
Inside, it’s like the funky old trailer was dropped inside a gleaming glass cube. There are rustic reclaimed wood accents and burlap sack lamps. Concrete floors and communal tables. Food served on mismatched vintage (aka Goodwill) china. And an enormous U-shaped bar lined with stools for viewing the open kitchen.
But don’t let the homey interior fool you: Odd Duck still serves some of the most sophisticated food in town. Gilmore is a master at turning simple, local ingredients into something complex, under the guise of comfort food. His menu changes with the seasons, but always features small, sharable plates of farm-to-table inventions.
Almost everyone orders the Parker House rolls—for good reason. Warm, slightly sweet buns are stuffed with succulent pulled pork derived from the pig’s head. The chicken fried egg sits atop a pool of hot sauce, its golden yolk oozing onto a nest of pea tendrils and sautéed mushrooms. A pleasingly-bitter salad is tossed with arugula, radicchio, shaved fennel, sunchokes, and bacon and served with a swipe of creamy chevre.
I’m not a big fan of foam or carrots, but Gilmore won me over with his delicious dish of hay-roasted carrots topped with carrot foam, crunchy pistachio crumbs, and rich cream cheese. Baked sweet potato chunks are topped with yogurt, peanuts, cilantro, nori, and ancho chili paste. Grilled cow’s tongue is another popular dish, as is the shrimp and grits, grilled quail, spiced redfish, and for larger parties, sizable entrees like roast chicken and lamb shoulder. For dessert, banana bread comes a la mode with crunchy butter pecans and a mini macaroon. Rarely a dessert fan, this was my husband’s favorite dish.
As with all Gilmore ventures, the beer list is one of the best in town. Wines are equally exciting, with lots of goodies offered by the glass and bottle, including a deliciously versatile La Filere Barbera. The cocktail list competes with treats like a refreshing Moscow Mule made with homemade draft ginger beer.
Currently serving dinner only, Odd Duck plans to eventually open for lunch and late-night dining. The new space seats 120 diners, including an outdoor patio with downtown views. But like the old trailer, there’s often a wait to sample the tasty fare. Some things never change. And that’s a good thing.