clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Austin Catering Company Word of Mouth Closes West 12th Bakery as Owner Eyes Retirement

A halal restaurant is taking over the West End space

Squares of swirly brownies.
Brownies from Word of Mouth.
Word of Mouth

Austin catering company Word of Mouth closed its only remaining bakery in early March. The 917 West 12th Street bakery’s last day in downtown’s West End neighborhood was on March 3.

Owner Leslie Moore announced the shutter in an Instagram post, where he notes that for the foreseeable future, pick-up and catering orders will still be fulfilled at the bakery’s production kitchen and office at 5002 Burleson Road. Last September, he closed the South First location of the bakery in Bouldin Creek because, at the time, “it was difficult to manage two bakeries with all of the staff shortages,” he said. Now, Moore tells Eater he’s selling the catering business and that the unnamed buyers (which will be announced soon) “did not want this little gem,” referring to the bakery.

A new, self-described Middle Eastern restaurant is coming into the West 12th Street space, San Marcos’s the Halal Project. The menu includes halal meats like gyro, shawarma, and kebabs on rice and in wraps; as well as sides and baklava.

In the meantime, Moore says he’ll still be operating a wedding venue in Kyle, The Winfield Inn, but these moves are ultimately a step in the direction of retirement.

Moore’s service industry history is lengthy, dating back to the late 1960s. According to a profile published by the Statesman in 2020, his first hospitality job was at a country club in his hometown of Corpus Christi when segregation was legally enforced. While studying engineering at the University of Texas at Austin in the early 1970s, he worked at private club and event space the Headliners Club. Eventually, he would score a job at the Tarry House, a private club in West Austin that often catered events at the LBJ Library and the Governor’s Mansion. That’s also when he and Victoria Hentrich (who managed Tarry House) would travel all around the United States, studying party culture in places like South Beach and Los Angeles. The man from a small town entrenched in Jim Crow laws had his eyes opened to how the wealthy partied, and he brought that knowledge with him back home to Texas. This proved fruitful when new money started flowing into Austin in the 1980s, however, when the savings and loan crash of 1987 came, and pocketbooks tightened, Hentrich and Moore’s working relationship ended.

Moore started his own catering company called Parties Parties, where he mostly catered to lawyers, a group who seemed impervious to the economic downturn. It was then that he met another Austin caterer, Rebecca Wallace Ford, who had been running Word of Mouth out of her house since the 1980s. The two hit it off so well they merged their companies. By 2001, the two sold Word of Mouth, but Moore bought it back in 2008 and expanded with a public-facing bakery in 2015.

Moore also briefly operated the tiny Rainey Street patio restaurant L’Estelle House for seven months before restaurants began to close due to COVID-19. He voluntarily moved out as the South First space presented a better opportunity at the time. South Congress Japanese restaurant Lucky Robot is opening a new wood-fired and raw bar spot, NomAde, in the address opening sometime this year.

Word of Mouth Bakery

917 West 12th Street, , TX 78703 (512) 617-8411 Visit Website