Breaking Bread With Odd Duck’s Mark Buley

October 4, 2017 at 2:08 pm
post by Paula Forbes

At Austin’s Odd Duck, Mark Buley and Bryce Gilmore are championing a menu led not by seasonal ingredients, per se, but by the region’s grains. (From pretzels to sandwich bread, this restaurant is serious about dough.)


Image Courtesy of Odd Duck. Photo Credit: Richard Casteel.

At Austin’s Odd Duck, the food, as described by chef-owner Mark Buley, is “Texas regional farm-to-table.” But unlike so many chefs that barely even pay lip service to such ideals, Buley, along with head chef Bryce Gilmore, truly lives and breathes an ethos of time and place.

Since Odd Duck’s inception in 2009 (the restaurant originally began as a little red food trailer, sitting on the grounds its brick and mortar now occupies) bread has been at the forefront of the menu. “Sandwiches have always been my favorite food,” Buley says with a laugh. And where there are sandwiches, there is bread… but this is not just any bread. “We try to trace things back to their roots, and the root of bread is a wood-fired, naturally-leavened, local grain.” And so Odd Duck’s bread program focuses on these three factors.

Image Courtesy of Odd Duck. Photo Credit: Richard Casteel.

“We call the bread program here a three-headed monster,” proclaims Buley, due to the breadth of format on offer, no doubt. Odd Duck uses Texas-grown grains from local miller Barton Springs Mill, and bakes them in their custom-built Texas Oven Co. wood-fired oven using residual heat from the previous evening’s dinner service.

Image Courtesy of Odd Duck. Photo Credit: Jody Horton.

Of their signature bread offerings, first is the signature hearth-baked loaves—crusty, naturally-leavened numbers—which are served simply with butter. Second is sandwich breads and enriched burger buns, the former of which is based off a “cocodrillo dough” (Italian for crocodile) that is so elastic it stretches like putty.

“We’re trying to take [a] locally sourced, craftsman’s approach,” Buley says, “and combine it with the bread that we’ve learned to make along the way.”

Image Courtesy of Odd Duck. Photo Credit: Richard Casteel.

And third is what Buley calls “piece work,” which includes things like Parker House rolls, sweet treats, laminated doughs, and the restaurant’s famous pretzels, all with the global influences we’ve come to associate with Odd Duck’s signature dishes. “We’ve had a pretzel on the menu in one form or another since we opened,” says Buley.

Image Courtesy of Odd Duck. Photo Credit: Jody Horton.

Odd Duck goes out of its way to include its surroundings by drawing on the traditions of local immigrant groups, both historic and contemporary. These days, the restaurant is serving pig face carnitas pretzels— that’s pretzel dough stuffed with carnitas and served with a mustard sauce. With these pretzels, the restaurant combines the cuisines of two of Austin’s historic immigrant groups—Germans and Mexicans. “We’ve got a bunch of stuff on the menu that gives nods to Tex-Mex [like queso]” Buley says, as well as “German influences, like kolaches, sauerbraten [and] sauerkraut.” And the restaurant incorporates contemporary “representations of immigrant populations,” which has led to a more global menu.

Image Courtesy of Odd Duck. Photo Credit: Jody Horton.

It’s through this global lens that the restaurant’s dedication to local and seasonal produce really shines: “Whatever fruit is available we try to highlight,” says Buley, who takes advantage of the year-round growing season in Texas by procuring mangoes from the Valley or produce from nearby Phoenix Farms. As a result, eager diners are able to enjoy varied offerings of pastry gems, like fig-bourbon-blue cheese danishes, or scamorza and peach kolaches.

Buley talks about Odd Duck as a “Texas regional farm-to-table” restaurant, and adds  that “all restaurants are a manifestation of a place and time . . . the culture of the city — past and present — is a part of that.” For Buley, it’s simple: “We just want people to say, ‘I don’t know where else I could eat that.’”


Taste it for yourself. Grab a seat.