A year ago, Heidi Garbo opened her first food truck. No investors, no outside advice, just a vision of bringing true Maine lobster rolls to the masses. She built the truck, aptly named Garbo's Lobster Truck, "for herself," she says, laughing. "I never even thought I’d have an employee. It's a food truck, with seafood, in the middle of Texas, serving $15 sandwiches," she says.
But, as Ray Kinsella taught us, "If you build it, they will come."
And come they did. Her truck featured a simple menu — lobster rolls offered "Maine style" or "CT style" along with housemade chips and clam chowder. What started out as a one-truck operation quickly grew to two, with people queuing up to buy buttery, decadent lobster rolls brimming with fresh toppings. On Tuesday, July 8, Garbo quietly opened her brick-and-mortar restaurant, Garbo's, in a Wells Branch shopping center.
Why North Austin? Less expensive rent makes it easier to focus on affordability while still using the highest quality ingredients.
Why open a shop in Wells Branch versus, say, the east side? It’s close to home for Garbo. Also, less expensive rent makes it easier to focus on affordability while still using the highest quality ingredients. "Our whole kitchen is a scratch kitchen," Garbo says. "We even make our own catsup!" She also wants to give our brethren to the north an alternative to chain restaurants. "People want something fun and hip that they don’t have to drive 25 miles to. Now folks can can enjoy a great meal with some local beer or wine and still be close to their kids," she explains.
The expanded menu is a collaboration between Garbo and Chef Mateo Vannucci, an Italian from Arkansas who cooks in the French style. Staples remain on the menu, but each day a blackboard will list daily specials. Among them are clams steamed with Austin Beerworks Black Thunder; a Wagyu burger topped with butter lettuce, balsamic onion, shiitake and cream Havarti cheese; smoked carrot gazpacho with blue cornmeal dusted oysters; and Garbo's nod to the “$5000 burger,” a Hamptons roll, finished with a beurre blanc, caviar, real black truffles and shiso leaves which will set you back $45. Heidi’s personal favorite? She says she’s waiting for hatch chile season to debut the hatch chile butter lobster roll.
The new location is still BYO — but that’s to change soon. Garbo will be featuring local craft brews and four selections from Austin Winery. (In the meantime, guests can grab craft brews and wine from the well-stocked gas station on the corner.) Also, the brick-and-mortar will be adding a lunch and brunch menu. In addition to the new restaurant, both trucks are still rolling and Garbo is quick to add, "We’re always hiring!"
We asked Garbo why her "seafood truck in the middle of Austin" has been such a success. For Garbo, the answer comes quickly: "It’s Austin. I've never met a group of people that appreciate food the way that these people do."