Day 2 in Austin (pt II of II): An Odd Duck, a tour & a few random stops

The former site of an Austin staple food truck of the same name

The former site of an Austin staple food truck of the same name

Fresh off the great Yoga experience at Wanderlust I wrote about here, we motivated and headed off to a restaurant that built itself up from one of Austin’s legendary food trucks into a full service restaurant. Thus was born our trip to Odd DuckOdd Duck could have been a restaurant on the side of the road in any city in the country.  The building isn’t overly distinct from the outside, it isn’t in a particularly trendy area, and it doesn’t scream “you are about to have a ridiculously good experience” from the curb.  Yet somehow that’s exactly what we got.

That is a part of the original trailer that they built into the bar. Nice example of adaptive reuse

That is a part of the original trailer that they built into the bar. Nice example of adaptive reuse

I had stopped to snap a picture outside, so when I opened the door a friendly guy named Jason who carried himself like managers do greeted me.  He had spent time as a mixologist (read: fancy bartender like this guy), and was now the General Manager.  Jason was the one who told me that the piece of the original food truck was built into the bar.  A nice touch.  These brief moments that smart restaurant people take to have genuine conversations with their guests make all the difference in the world, in my opinion.  It’s this great chance to frame the restaurant for a guest, so why not take it?  And for me it’s kind of like an interactive amuse bouche to get all of my senses ready for the meal itself. Jason directed me around the large u-shaped bar to the table my friends had found and the fun began.

Love when the server is so good she'll ask the chef what he's enjoying at the moment - those are his selections

Love when the server is so good she’ll ask the chef what he’s enjoying at the moment – those are his selections

I don’t usually put a photo of the actual menu in my posts.  This one is here for two reasons.  First, my friend Andrew is a little bit of a picky eater.  And he read the menu and spent the first several moments complaining about how inedible he thought everything sounded.  I point this out in part because it’s a gentle reminder that menus don’t always sell themselves and (more to the point) because, as my friend Alex subsequently pointed out, in 30 minutes Andrew would literally being eating his words.  Second, the stars represent the Chef’s current favorites on the menu.  Our server, a petite blend of indie-rock meets accountant, showed up with a tattoo of a radish on her arm and I was convinced we’d made a good choice for food.

One of the better salads I've ever eaten

One of the better salads I’ve ever eaten

It’s not often I’ll start a description of any food experience by gushing about a salad, but this one deserves special attention. Beets, mole, chevre, corn nuts, and charred olive all presented nicely on the plate.  Here’s what I can say about this salad – it was perfect for me.  Lots of flavors, lots of textures and at least the appearance of healthy options.  And the mole?  I’d like to have it as part of a full dish.

A fun twist on pretzels

A fun twist on pretzels

Ham and cheese filled pretzel pieces with mustard sauce.

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A delicious take on the tater tot

 

and these

Andrew's favorite dish - that he previously complained about

Andrew’s favorite dish – that he previously complained about

and these

Of course we should have grits in the south

Of course we should have grits in the south

yep, and these two desserts, too

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There were six of us eating, so I left some of the other food items out of the photos, but these were the really impressive highlights.  I’d go back tomorrow if I could.  As long as this place exists, it will be on my list every trip to Austin.  It was the best dinner I had – even though it was technically lunch time.  Even that ice cream sandwich, which was just “very good” compared to the “get your own damn dessert”  bread pudding with the salted caramel, was worth the time.  It had fresh mint baked or infused or something into the chocolate cracker. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about that meal.  Chef Bryce really put a nice meal together.

Appetite sufficiently sated, we piled into the car and headed off Barton Springs Bike Rental for our afternoon “tour” of Austin.  I put the tour in quotes because honestly the tour guide left a bit to be desired.  He wasn’t a bad guy, he just didn’t seem to know much about Austin.  Tip to tour companies, it’s pretty important that your tour guides have interesting tidbits about the city.  But he was a young guy and he did show us a few cool things.  At $45/person, I’d probably say it’s worth doing at least once, but the good folks of Austin ought to know there is a gap in the market for someone with deep knowledge of Austin history, weird stuff, music or something meaningful other than salamanders to fill in and make some money.  Now, complaints out of the way, let’s get to the tour – which did have a few cool stops.

This is more like a photo essay

Aptly named because it was close to the actual Barton Springs

Aptly named because it was close to the actual Barton Springs

then here

Took this picture mostly because a few of our guys looked like riding a bike may not be 'just like riding a bike.'

Took this picture mostly because a few of our guys looked like riding a bike may not be ‘just like riding a bike.’

then here

I didn't take that many pictures from the trail down by Barton Springs, but this was a cool location for a pic

I didn’t take that many pictures from the trail down by Barton Springs, but this was a cool location for a pic

then here, which was a great little craft beer bar called Craft Pride specializing in Texas craft beer. To my craft beer friends, this is a place you want to stop when visiting Austin, the staff was knowledgeable and friendly and the list was great.

Found this little gem on Rainey Street - a part of our tour that we helped create

Found this little gem on Rainey Street – a part of our tour that we helped create

then here, the Container Bar (not unlike Container Park in Vegas)

Undaunted, we bought our tour guide a Live Oak Hefe at a converted shipping container bar and got on with the fun

Undaunted, we bought our tour guide a Live Oak Hefe at a converted shipping container bar and got on with the fun

and this series from the Hope Outdoor Gallery, which turns out to be something you really shouldn’t miss if you are in Austin.  Some of it just looks like random scrawl, but most of it is actually really interesting stuff.

Random park that was the highlight of the tour

Random outdoor art gallery of sorts that was the highlight of the tour

and of course this

Yes, indeed, keeping it "weird"

Yes, indeed, keeping it “weird”

And finally I’ll add this

Not sure what this was supposed to be, but it struck me

Not sure what this was supposed to be, but it struck me

And finally, because only in Austin would a power plant be the site of a Kanye West concert, there was this

Somehow South by Southwest was able to do a show here

Somehow South by Southwest was able to do a show here

Actually, one last image.  We came across two girls creating art.  They were either shy, annoyed, or both at the notion of us (meaning me) photographing the art being born.  For the life of me I still can’t understand two things about this.  First, it’s a public, outdoor gallery in the middle of the day.  Can you really be upset if someone takes a picture while you are putting up public art?  Second, as an artist how can’t you see the artistic value of capturing art coming to life?  I was befuddled.  But out of respect to them I’ve cropped their faces out of this picture.

Quick Favor: If you live in Austin, please drop by the Hope Gallery on 11th, snap a pic of the finished version and send it to me.  I’d love to complete the circle!

Art in progress while we were at Hope

Art in progress while we were at Hope

This was basically the end of our tour.

We also ate dinner at some place called J-Black’s on 6th and had a decent drink at the Key Bar, but really the highlight of the day was a toss up between Wanderlust Yoga and the food at Odd Duck.  I’ll skip the food and drinks at dinner time and say the only thing memorable about J-Black’s was the bartender, who knew her stuff and was pleasant to chat with. Click here to return to my index of Four Days in Austin.  Thanks for dropping by. Next up, I’ll get into the fun on Day Three at Franklin BBQ and other random adventure.  Cheers

 

 

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