A* TA S T E | ACCI D EN TA L EPI CU R E A N
SWEET ( and savory) INDULGENCE BY DANIEL RAMIREZ
It is all the rage in our foodie town. Start from a trailer, gain a devoted following and move into a building to take full advantage of demand and turn it into increased success. It has spawned a familiar term in Austin – brick and mortar – to differentiate a restaurant from a food trailer. Some meet with success. They transform a full menu that was crafted for the relatively smallscale production of a trailer’s confined space into a bustling restaurant that expands on that simple menu, now able to do more with a larger kitchen. But, to fill a brick and mortar space and the accompanying full menu from the a trailer that serves a single niche dessert – despite taking that dessert to outrageous tangents – is a Texas-sized challenge. Luckily for Austinites, Gourdough’s Public House was more than up to the task. Following the same path that restaurants like Odd Duck, Franklin Barbecue and Qui have taken to rampant success, Gourdough’s moved indoors after garnering national attention for their wild takes on the traditional doughnut. In order to do so, they had to take the concept of “Big. Fat. Doughnuts.” that defined and continues to define their trailer space and apply it to a full menu. To successfully manage the expansion, it was only natural to presume that they would have to abandon the ethic and embrace less-indulgent, more health-conscious dishes to round out their offerings. Surely, one cannot build a restaurant’s foundation solely upon bacon and maple syrup topped fried dough? Yet, over a year and a half since they threw wide their doors on South Lamar, Gourdough’s Public House is proving that the occasional indulgence, in nearly every form, is just what Austin ordered. From lunches that are half doughnut burger, half healthier side to the full calorie, full-plate doughnut mountain that Austin has come to know and love, the Public House is doing everything bigger and arguably better than its trailer-based parent. Take, for example, the impressive cocktail program. Now that they have a roof and seating, the Public House has created an atmosphere that is just as indulgent in drink menu as their established legend. As fans of spicy cocktails, the Sweaty Hipster appeals to the smoky, sweet and spicy palates alike, with its mix of jalapenos and tequila-citrus f lavors that practically define
the Austin summer. Their Bourbon and “Coke,” however, is our favorite, using a healthier pour of bourbon to compliment a cola reduction that maintains the flavor of the caramel and sugar soft drink, without diluting the full flavor spectrum of the bourbon. Even the basics get a luxurious refinement, as a Baileys and coffee is turned on its head for the Tedious Day, a drink that pours the Irish Cream over coffee ice cubes. But, regardless of the additional bar options that a brick and mortar establishment provides, the reason one visits the Public House is to find out how many ways a doughnut can be served and still maintain the allure it has maintained since every child first tried the sugary pastry with a hole in the middle. The dishes find a doughnut as the foundation for stunning twists on traditional entrees. Burgers become doughnut burgers and sandwiches become doughnut sandwiches. And it seems like the natural progression for dishes like the Phat Club, which harkens to Monte Cristo sandwiches – which is also a menu option. But the concept defies the norm in creations like a chicken and creamed corn masterpiece that uses candied jalapenos and a version of a latke to bring to mind memories of family meals that could only call a Norman Rockwell paining home. The Country Clucker, as it is called, elicited the most dish envy from other diners upon our last visit, and a nearby table shamelessly but politely asked if they might sample a bite. To top themselves, Gourdough’s has managed to change even how a doughnut is perceived, adding doughnut dumplings to a slow-cooked comfort expression that is unlike any dish you’ve ever tried. And all of this is pushing the definition of a doughnut house and Austin’s culinary expectations forward. And, as we will continue to maintain, they offer the entire dining menu as supplement to the already global phenomenon that is their sweets. Thus, dessert is as fantastic as you can dream. It’s a strong move to put the doughnut front and center in a culinary town like Austin, and even bolder to do so in such a brazen and unapologetic manner. But with the sweet execution with which Gourdough’s Public House has managed the feat, we look forward to our next visit and you should, too.
Published on Mar 31, 2014
This issue, we focus on style, featuring the unique style that Nashville has, the awesome style of a doughnut and the incredible style choic...