Bryce Gilmore's Odd Duck has been open for a month now, putting Gilmore's hyper-focus on Central Texan ingredients on display in a 120 seat dining room with its own in-house bread program. They plan to launch lunch service later this month and both brunch and late night dining are on the horizon. Eater spoke with Gilmore about Odd Duck's busy first month, as well as his evolving approach to Texan ingredients and preparations.
How have you been developing separate menus at Odd Duck and Barley Swine? Are there different philosophies behind each?
It's something I thought about for a really long time, knowing we were opening this restaurant right down the street [from Barley Swine]. This is supposed to be a larger space with more simple food, but with the same philosophy behind everything we do. It starts with the farmers, that's never going to change. As long as we're not doing the exact same dish about both restaurants, there's no defined style. We're doing the set menu down there which separates it a little more, but for me I just want to have two spots doing the best we can with the food we have.
I opened Odd Duck with a lot of stuff we'd done at Barley Swine before because it makes sense to me to do things we're comfortable with and knew they were going to be good. We'll probably start changing the menu more, now that we're getting everyone trained up and getting comfortable with the space. The volume can get kind of crazy. We're serving three hundred people Fridays and Saturdays. At Barley Swine we do 120. It's a big jump up and we've got a good crew who are making it possible.
You are planning on expanding to lunch, and to brunch further down the line, yes?
We're going to start with lunch end of January. I don't know if we'll implement a late night or a brunch first. We want to do all these things in stages, I don't want to just open up the floodgates all day and all night. I'm already skeptical of how we're going to pull off lunch. We'll probably going to have people in the kitchen twenty-four hours.
How's the bread program developing?
We're starting to add to it. We did a foie gras pizza over New Year's that turned out pretty good. We've kicked around the idea of one late night a week doing pizzas, though if anything we'll do some smaller flatbreads. We use that oven for chickens and other stuff, so it'd be harder to do larger pizzas.
Recently, Matthew Odam called Barley Swine the best restaurant in Austin, in part because it's uniquely Texan. How you'd like to see the Austin food scene grow in a specifically Texan way?
People always ask me, "What's your style, what kind of food do you do?" I have no idea. That's kind of y'alls job to put a label on it. For me, we draw inspiration form all kinds of cuisines. The common factor is that the ingredients are from Central Texas. If I can't get broccoli anymore, I won't get it from California. For me, that's why I think we call it Texan cuisine, because we're using Texas ingredients.
I grew up here in Austin, and I've worked in all kinds of restaurants, Italian, Mediterranean, Spanish, French, so I like to draw from those inspirations. But I'm starting to think more about Southern and Texan food, too. Growing up eating chicken fried steak and southwestern Tex Mex. That's what I grew up on, and it's fun to think about how you can make it different. The chicken fried egg is kind of an ode to my father. He's got this 'chicken fried everything' section of his menu.
That Texas approach is reflected in the décor here, too. It's very much a cross between ranch and farmhouse.
Of course, the farmhouse restaurant theme is very common. We wanted to be a little funky. All this stuff is from reclaimed barns, and the bar is from the old Shiner brewery. I think some of the wood they used on these planter boxes is from Janis Joplin's old house.
I wanted to make the oven feel like a fireplace. I like restaurants to feel homey, like you're walking into my dining room at home.
Now you have two hyper local restaurants, how has your relationship with the various local farmers developed? Are you asking them to plant things?
A lot of the farmers ask what I want them to plant. The thing is, every farmer knows what they can grow. I would hate to have them grow something we want and have it not work out for them. There's a lot of guys that will try out things and see how it goes, but I want them to do what they're comfortable with. Some of them try to experiment with things, like what we do in the kitchen.
How do you form relationships with local farmers?
All you gotta do is go the farmers markets. That's all we do. Every Saturday we go to downtown, we go to Barton Creek, and sometimes we go to Sunset Valley as well. That's where I started to meet these people, and that's where we do a lot of our shopping. You can go and see what's on their tables and talk to them about what they're doing and what's coming up. Then we get deliveries from them throughout the week. That's really it. If you just go the farmers markets, you can see what we're using.
In Austin, people are caring about where food coming from. You can see it in the growth of the farmer's markets here. That excites me, just to know that people care.
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