Having just returned from a well-deserved vacation — the first he’s taken in years — Barley Swine's Bryce Gilmore sat down with CultureMap for his first interview on what we can expect from the new Odd Duck restaurant now that it’s found a permanent home at Gibson Flats, a new mixed-use residential development from Ardent Residential on South Lamar.
(Note: For those who aren’t familiar with the farm-to-table trailer concept, Odd Duck was Gilmore’s first culinary endeavor. It was a farm-to-table food trailer serving up, fresh, local and seasonal dishes that garnered local and national attention when it opened in 2009.)
CultureMap: What made you decide to close the Odd Duck trailer at the end of 2011 and eventually bring it back again?
Bryce Gilmore: We opened Barley Swine in December of 2010 and at that point we had contemplated closing down Odd Duck so we could focus on the new restaurant. But I really didn’t want to fire our staff or cut off the support that we were giving to local farmers. So I turned to my brother and asked if he could do it. It meant a lot that he was willing to. He worked his butt off for a whole year while I was figuring out how to run my own restaurant. They did a great job, but eventually the lot was sold for development and we decided not to relocate it.
We had actually started talking to another landlord in about August of 2011 for a brick and mortar of Odd Duck before we even closed the trailer. But it didn’t work out and we’ve just kept our eyes open for another good option. We ended up talking to the developers of the location where the Odd Duck trailer used to be and it worked out that they wanted us to be tenants once they completed the building.
CM: What made you think this would work as a real restaurant concept?
BG: It’s funny. When I opened Barley Swine, I didn’t have a streamlined concept for the restaurant. I just knew I wanted to cook good food for people. And I knew I wanted to do small plates in the space that we had to do it in. In my mind, I thought it was just a step up from the trailer with simple food in a bar atmosphere.
But then I realized it was my chance to really push it. Let’s do the best we can; let’s serve really nice plates. And see what we can make out of this. So we evolved more from Odd Duck to what it really is now at Barley Swine. Now that we’ve gone in that direction, we want to have Odd Duck stay more true to what the trailer was. They’re different enough in concept.
CM: What can we expect to see from Odd Duck, the restaurant, when it opens?
BG: We’ll have lunch and dinner. We’re also working on a late night program that would be open until two. We’ll will have a good-sized patio with shade from trees and a view of downtown. Including the patio, we’re looking at about 120 seats total. 60 of them will be inside. (Compared to the 42 we have at Barley Swine.)
We’ll have a wood oven and we’re using the wood grill that we used in the trailer. I don’t know what version of pork belly sliders we’ll do, but it’s something that you can eat at two in the morning. We’re looking at different options like bar snacks and small plates with less of a focus on plating and more on flavors and technique. We’re also thinking of doing family style portions, like large platters. Even so far as a whole pig head or whole fish for large parties to share.
CM: This will still be about working with local farmers and their seasonal ingredients?
BG: That’s what excites us most about this. Ever since we closed the trailer, there have been farmers that we haven’t been able to support as much. And I’m really looking forward to supporting these farmers more and use the produce they have.
CM: Odd Duck is both your first and third concept. Do you have any concerns about running two separate concepts?
BG: I would if I didn’t have the partners that we have. We’ve got some great guys who have already been a part of Barley Swine. We’re all in this together. There will be a little shifting around at first. It’s something my dad [Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen] taught me, you have to have the right people in place if you want to move forward and grow. So I’m really confident that we can make this successful along with Barley Swine and I think South Lamar can support both restaurants.
CM: What’s the time frame?
BG: Well the space won’t be delivered to us until March. So we’ll need a few months to finish it out. We’re hoping early summer, but you never know how things will go based on the City of Austin. Hopefully we’ll know more early next year.
CM: What are you looking forward to most about having your first baby back in existence?
BG: It’s a good feeling. We had so much support from the community with Odd Duck. I got so many calls when it shut down and it was really hard. So we’re excited to bring it back and have fun with the food and continue to grow with the Austin food scene.