Though Bryce Gilmore was once again robbed of a James Beard Award on May 7, the hometown favorite still has a very good reason to celebrate this week. His new East Austin fast-casual concept, Sour Duck Market, is now open to the public.
An Instagram post on May 8 advised customers that the “bake case is full and ready.” Although construction workers were still busy putting the finishing touches on the space when we visited, a restaurant employee told CultureMap that Sour Duck is in full swing with its soft opening, and a full menu of sandwiches, salads, small plates, and baked goods is now available.
Gilmore, along with partners Jason James, Dylan Gilmore, and Mark Buley, is the latest celebrated Austin chef to branch out into counter service, following in the footsteps of Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye and Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo/Chicon, both of whom are now operating concepts out of downtown’s Fareground food hall.
The restaurant is located at 1814 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., on the corner of Chicon Street in the space formerly occupied by Joe’s Spot and Connie’s Beer Garden. Hubnik Architecture — the force behind the renovations of Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile, Nickel City, and Whisler’s — transformed the building into a modernist showpiece with warm woods and washes of white.
The concept is a sharp departure from Gilmore’s upscale restaurants Barley Swine and Odd Duck, but it still retains the chef's commitment to local sourcing. Customers walk up to the baked goods case filled with croissants, pastries, and other treats before ordering from a blackboard menu. Many of the dishes come in well below $10, and diners can keep a tab running throughout their visit.
For breakfast, Sour Duck's offerings include a breakfast sandwich, a grain bowl, and sourdough pancakes. For lunch, the menu features a trio of sandwiches: a pork sando, a burger, and a chicken salad. Small plates include smoked carrots with avocado mayo, escabeche, and cilantro; a Cobb salad with smoked goat neck, romaine, avocado, and a citrus-garlic dressing; tempura-battered fried cheese curds served with a spiced bean dip; and a shrimp and redfish cream dip with grapefruit and everything crackers.
Although customers can wait for to-go orders at the bar in the front building, most of the restaurant’s seating is provided by community picnic tables in the beer garden-like backyard. In case of bad weather, some of the benches are covered by an awning, and a back bar provides further coverage from the elements. This back bar also serves most of Sour Duck’s alcoholic options including wine; draft beer from Real Ale, Hops & Grain, Celis, and Live Oak; and draft cocktails like a grapefruit Paloma and a dewberry Hemingway daiquiri.
According to a Facebook post, Sour Duck’s trial hours are between 7 am-10 pm. The website has not been updated with the permanent hours.