Unlike Los Angeles food trucks, which are basically moving targets, Austin’s food trailers set up shop and stay put, usually in clusters. They also have a wider range of styles, shapes and sizes, including retrofitted shipping containers that dispense sushi. Is this a better model? Not necessarily, just different. No matter the market or model, Odd Duck would still stand out, not only for the value, but also for the local, organic ingredients and innovation.
Chef Bryce Gilmore, who now owns the lauded Barley Swine restaurant nearby, launched his “farm to trailer” concept in December 2009 on South Lamar, featuring a true open kitchen, a glass-free window that frames the chef. During our visit, that man was Kevin, who presided over the pots, hot plates and oak-burning grill.
Chef Gilmore comes by cooking honestly. His father Jack Gilmore has made a big impact behind Austin stoves over the years. He owns Jack Allen’s Kitchen just west of Austin and was the founding chef at Z’Tejas, a Southwestern concept that started on West 6th Street and now has branches in Arizona, California, Utah and Washington.
Odd Duck resides in rust colored trailer and sports only six stools, but plenty of surrounding picnic tables. They also feature a green sticker right near the ordering window that says, “We support local sustainable foods. Austin, TX.” Yes, there’s officially a “farm to table” movement in Austin, the likes of which wasn’t evident on my last trip there in 2008. Odd Duck probably would have been popular, regardless, but the trailer achieved national prominence after appearing on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” which is about as good an endorsement as a chef can get.
During my visit with food centric local Jane King, who worked for years at Central Market and now fights to improve school lunch, nothing on Odd Duck’s blackboard menu costs more than $6. That fact proved to be astounding given the provenance of the ingredients and the generous portions.
To drink, Odd Duck sells Texas Tea, the rare bottled tea that actually tastes good. The beverage, produced in nearby Fredericksburg, comes in peach or strawberry, both good. Unfortunately/fortunately, we had a reservation at Uchiko that limited our intake. Otherwise it would have been tempting to order the entire menu.