In 2009, a 1978 Airstream trailer called Gourdough's rolled onto South Lamar Blvd., officially joining ranks with the Austin food trailer movement with an eclectic offering of gourmet, unconventional donuts. In just a few short years, this "Big. Fat. Donut." trailer has served thousands of customers a wildly creative menu of 23 made-to-order fried-dough concoctions, and now it's ready to take the next big leap.
Like former trailer neighbor Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine), Paula Samford and Ryan Palmer (Gourdough's owners) are preparing to transition the trailer concept into a brick-and-mortar restaurant on South Lamar Blvd. called Gourdough's Public House this fall. The Gourdough's trailer will continue operations, but will have a different donut menu than the brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Diners can look forward to the Ron Burgandy donut burger, made with two slices of American cheese, bacon, fried egg, cilantro, guacamole, tomato and mayonnaise.
"This was a natural progression for us," Palmer says. "As far as us getting to test out the concept and make sure it would work, the trailer has been great, but we've wanted to expand the menu for a while. There is only so much you can do in a trailer, and we've come up with a whole new line of donuts, donut hamburgers, donut entrées and donut appetizers [for Gourdough's Public House]."'
When Samford and Palmer first came up with the idea for Gourdough's, it was meant to be a small side project that the duo could dabble in during their time away from real estate work. Yet when menu items like the Funky Monkey (a donut with grilled bananas, brown sugar and cream cheese icing) and the Flying Pig (a donut with bacon and maple syrup) started attracting longer and longer customer lines, the two decided a brick-and-mortar shop was almost inevitable.
"The trailer has grown a cult following amongst people in Austin as well as tourists," Palmer says. "It's become one of those quintessential places you have to go to when you're Austin, and we definitely didn't expect that. We're busier than ever, and it's been great to see the trailer become what it has."
While looking into the South Lamar space they eventually chose for Gourdough's Public House, Palmer and Samford were impressed by how much the location already matched Gourdough's' aesthetics, concept and design.
"The space is pretty perfect," Palmer says. "It's an older building, and we really liked that. Whenever you see the inside, it's got an industrial look and has a lot of older items in it. It's got the feel that Gourdough's already has — almost like it's from a different era. We also appreciated that Kerbey Lane [Cafe] had been there; it definitely makes it a landmark space."
The Gourdough's Public House menu is still coming together, but Palmer says that diners have a lot to look forward to, such as the Ron Burgandy donut burger, made with two slices of American cheese, bacon, fried egg, cilantro, guacamole, tomato and mayonnaise and a donut entree with chicken fried steak, potato pancake and gravy. "The donut burgers are awesome. There are like five or six of those. The entrée donuts are really great as well. There are definitely going to be some things on the menu that people don't expect."
In developing the Gourdough's Public House menu, Palmer says that he and Samford relied on friends, family and their favorite foods and flavors to piece together different menu creations. "We don't have any classic training; we just make what we like to eat and listen to what people tell us. It's worked at Gourdough's, so we're confident that it will work at Gourdough's Public House."
Gourdough's Public House is slated to open the first weekend of November, but Palmer emphasizes that the team has a lot of work to do before then. The day that it does open, however, Gourdough's Public House will be joining a handful of other restaurant establishments — Franklin Barbecue, Barley Swine and El Naranjo — that started as ambitious trailer concepts that only dreamed of one day becoming a restaurant.
"It's been a lot of fun to be a part of this perfect storm," Palmer says. "Austin has been a great place to try something that might not have been well received in a different city or different market."