Culinary punks

When I was recently invited to join some friends for dinner at G & G Mobile Bistro, my first sentiment was fear. Not fear of eating delicious food prepared in a custom-built, two-wheeled trailer, but fear that as a vegetarian I’d (again) be the Debbie Downer of the evening by asking for inconvenient substitutions and off-the-menu favors.

An avid cook since age 16, Gus Gonzalez attended the Culinary Academy of Austin and has worked in a variety of high-profile kitchens. He credits Chef David Bull (formerly of the five star Driskill Grill) for enlightening him. Remembering his days with Bull, Gonzalez said, “I’d heard about foie gras, and maybe smelled a truffle, and was suddenly working with them on a daily basis.”

About six years ago, Gonzalez met Gabe Garman and a year later, they formed the Bad Ones, a band that preaches “punk-rock torture.” But it wasn’t until about three months ago that Gonzalez and Garman decided to start selling gourmet flatbread sandwiches from a mobile food cart on the North St. Mary’s strip. Did the kids leaving the White Rabbit “get it”? Not exactly. But the parents patiently waiting in parked cars did.

A small but devoted fan base has followed G & G Mobile Bistro to a peaceful, romantic, and surprisingly breezy little spot on the new River Walk Museum Reach, where thoughtful menu items are served in paper French-fry boats, and vintage ska music plays from a laptop. On my first visit, my friend Niles did the dirty work by ordering, “Five courses for everyone, and he’s a vegetarian.”

“No problem,” Garman said, jotting down our order, “we can do that.”

Vichyssoise (served in a plastic cup with a dollop of Mexican sour cream and scallions) silenced our group for a refreshingly chilled first course. Instead of pork loin in my flatbread sandwich, I got zucchini — grilled with spicy whole-grain mustard — and a cucumber and tomato salad. The chicken-liver pâté was left off my cheese course (brie with caramelized onions, farmhouse cheddar, pears dusted with cinnamon, and flash-pickled pink-lady apples). Nothing needed to be left off the salad of grapefruit, orange, blue cheese, and chile pepitas (dry- roasted green beans made their way into this dish on my second visit). And when spiced hanger-steak skewers arrived, I noticed a few carnivores gazing longingly at the elegantly grilled pears and leeks I was served (also skewered).

A few days later, when I spoke to Gonzalez, Garman (who claims he “can’t cook, but knows the difference between a dice and a cube, and what a chiffonade is”) listened to his friend talk about possible ways to expand the business and his philosophy of creating unique dishes (possibly best described as modern American bistro fare) using fresh, whole ingredients that require minimal prep time. “Don’t describe things so well, or you’re going to give the recipes away,” Garman warned Gonzalez, almost comically. That’s but one of the charming things about G & G — other than artful little surprises like cocoa-dusted beets, olive-oil “soaked” Hami melon, and salty almond ice cream — there’s no mystery in what’s being served. Items can be ordered individually (the most expensive item on a recent visit was $8), and Garman takes time to explain each dish as it arrives (which is handy once it gets dark — G & G serves until midnight on Friday and Saturday).

If you don’t have time to sit on a park bench and watch Rio Taxis float by while you dine on three ($12) or five ($20) courses — jump to the end of the menu: Pecan flatbread with grilled peaches, basil, Bing cherries, and almond crème anglaise guarantees sweet dreams.

If there’s a special someone out there you’d like to impress with your knowledge of SA’s evolving culinary scene, visit G & G Mobile Bistro. It’s fresh, honest, creative food made by the Bad Ones, and (sorry all you selfish foodies out there) no longer SA’s best-kept secret. •

G & G Mobile Bistro
116 W. Mitchell, (210) 584-6364.
Hours: 6-11pm Wednesday-Thursday, 6pm-12am Friday-Saturday.