At a time when trailer food is all the rage, a few Austin restaurateurs are making the shift from mobile to brick and mortar—and lovin’ it.
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Food carts. Trailers. Renovated school buses. Mobile kitchens. The movement to use a vehicle to sell food—from juicy meat on a stick to gourmet doughnuts topped with thick strips of bacon and sweet maple syrup—is sweeping the nation. And Austin, with its laid-back vibe meets ultra-cool hipster, is at the forefront of the scene. Trailer parks have cropped up around the city, making it easy for diners to get a taste of the many offerings. Two popular venues, Odd Duck Farm to Trailer (everything is 100 percent locally sourced and offerings change daily) and Franklin Barbecue (delicious brisket, pulled pork, and the like) stand out from the crowd—and have a huge following. Anthony Bourdain gave Odd Duck some face time, and it’s not uncommon to wait in line for an hour or more to get some ’cue at Franklin’s. So, at a time when traffic is at such a high volume and overhead is so low, are Odd Duck and Franklin opening brick-and-mortar restaurants? We spoke with Stacy Franklin, who started Franklin Barbecue with her husband, Aaron, and Bryce Gilmore, the owner of Odd Duck and Barley Swine (his new 35-seat spot on South Lamar that dishes out shareable plates and craft beers) to find out why they decided to make the shift—and what they love about the culinary scene in Austin.
How and why did you end up working in the hospitality industry?
Gilmore: My dad [Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen] is a chef, and so I’ve grown up around food. I started working for him when I was fourteen, busing tables and running food for him at his restaurant, but toward the end of high school, I finally got into the kitchen, and it just felt natural. I spent a year after high school working for him, and at nineteen, I went to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and started from there. I spent some time in San Francisco and Aspen, but I knew I wanted to come back to Austin and do my own thing. It’s hard to stay away from Austin too long.
What was your ultimate reasoning behind starting with a trailer as opposed to a restaurant?
Franklin: We had been dreaming of having a barbecue restaurant for years, throwing backyard barbecues for friends. Opening a trailer was the only way to make it feasible, without taking on loans or investors. We really wanted it to be just Aaron and Stacy.
One thing that people mention about the Odd Duck Trailer is how much they appreciate the incorporation of local ingredients. Why was it important to you to use local for your trailer?
Gilmore: I learned how important it is to use local in San Francisco. It comes down to the quality of ingredients you use, and if you use local, you know what you are going to get. Knowing for sure everything is done right without using chemicals and the animals being treated humanely is important to me. I appreciate the sourcing of food, and I trust the people who source it to me. I can hold them accountable.
How is your restaurant different from your trailer?
Gilmore: Odd Duck is simple food and we aren’t pushing the envelope by way of plating. All I had was the wood grill. Now with the restaurant, I have freedom to prepare things differently and put more time into everything. The menu changes pretty frequently, and that’s the way I envisioned it.
Franklin: We’re going to keep the same menu, but just have more of it. We want to stick with that because that’s what works. The restaurant will have the same vibe as our trailer. We’ll still have the same kitschy elements, with an old backyard feel that seats about fifty people.
How have you scene the Austin culinary scene evolve over the years?
Gilmore: I think people are now more inclined than ever to try new things. A lot of people are moving here from other cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. People from these cities spend a lot of their time going to nice restaurants, and it becomes a part of their culture. Austin is jumping on that. For the first time, people are valuing not only good food but also its sourcing.
Franklin: There are so many creative people in Austin who are excited about food. It makes for a good place to do something like this. We look at ourselves as not just being a part of this trailer movement but also the Austin restaurant movement. It’s great to be in a community of people who love what they do.
What is one food trailer you’d like to see pop up?
Gilmore: I wish beer trailers were legal. That would be awesome. As far as I know there is everything you can think of. Maybe a baby food trailer?
Franklin: A Greek trailer would be really great. In East Austin, please.