Photography by Jenna Noel
It’s no secret that Austin has become a hotbed for mobile vendors: tacos, crêpes, wurst—even locally made funky clothing and accessories are fair game. But new-kid-on-wheels Odd Duck Farm to Trailer is peddling a fresh spin on the culinary side of the concept. Chef and owner Bryce Gilmore offers local, organic, sustainable, whole-animal-oriented dishes tailored especially for the walk-up crowd.
No stranger to the food industry, Bryce is the son of Jack Gilmore, 20-year veteran chef at Austin’s Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill and now at Jack Allen’s Kitchen. The younger Gilmore gleaned an early education about Southwestern cuisine and kitchen life from his father, then attended the California Culinary Academy, traveled Europe and cooked in high-end, highly principled restaurants like Austin’s Wink, Boulevard in San Francisco and Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen. He took the reins as sous chef for two years at Café 909 in Marble Falls in 2006.
In 2009, Gilmore bought a 1980 Fleetwood Mallard trailer on eBay, which he and his brother moved from Wisconsin to Texas. He spent the next three months raising the ceiling, painting the exterior burnt orange, installing a wood grill and figuring out the smoke-exhaust system. Borrowing from the name of the trailer model, Gilmore opened Odd Duck for business on South Lamar in December of 2009.
The menu changes daily, depending on what’s available at the farmers markets. There are usually 10 menu items offered—priced from $2–$5. Each concoction is elegantly simple, yet artfully complex in flavor, like the recent char-grilled corn sweetened by paprika aioli, creamy goat cheese and silky roasted beets on crispy toast brightened with Meyer lemon, and coffee-rubbed pork shoulder quesadilla with honey-vinaigrette carrots.
Using a minimalist approach, Gilmore showcases each ingredient in a dish, and utilizes several cooking styles to obtain maximum flavor—from modern sous-vide to more primitive, fire-fueled techniques. “I slow cook most items using new techniques and finish them on a wood grill with the oldest,” he says. Gilmore follows a traditional tapas blueprint—small dishes made for sharing and tasting—and encourages customers to bring wine or beer, split a collection of dishes and relax under the shade of the tomato-red umbrellas or around the outdoor fireplace on chilly nights.
Choosing a city to open Odd Duck in was easy for Gilmore. “I love the heart and soul of Austin,” he says, and notes that local, organic, sustainable food has become extremely accessible here. He’s currently building relationships with farmers, scouring markets for produce, goat’s milk and artisanal cheese and buying whole pigs from Richardson Farms and ducks from Countryside Farm. “I want to bring good food to people,” he says. “Food that they know is local and from animals raised humanely, who lived a good life.”
South Lamar is a jumble of auto shops, fast-food chains and gas stations; there’s almost a futuristic, science-fiction vibe to Odd Duck’s presence there. But with Gilmore’s level of experience and fresh, farm-to-trailer ethos, Odd Duck is positioned to join the frontlines of a movement that, in some cases, has produced a cult following, like those for Rickshaw Dumpling Truck in New York and Los Angeles’s Green Truck.
As drive-thrus proliferate, so do outposts and way stations for organic, ethical eating. A natural urban democracy is in effect, and Odd Duck reminds us that where there’s a particular and sincere appetite, there’s a way—brick and mortar or not.
Odd Duck Farm to Trailer serves dinner—to stay or to go—Tuesday–Friday from 5 p.m.–10 p.m. and Saturday from 5 p.m.–midnight. For more information, visit oddduckfarmtotrailer.com.