Food & Drink

Gordo Gustavo’s Cooks Up BBQ Expansion Plan

Owner Austin Towne aims to go whole-hog with a full restaurant and bar.

Gordo Gustavo’s just upgraded from a market stall to a food truck a year ago, and now the team is ready to make things more permanent. Owner Austin Towne says he’s looking for locations to open a restaurant, a Tex-Mex joint with a full bar, if everything goes his way.

This will come as welcome news for Gordo’s die-hards, who patiently wait in line at the farmers market every week for their smokey barbecue fix. Someone on Yelp summarized it beautifully: “I stopped going to church and just started going to Gordo Gustavo’s, because that’s all the church I ever need.” Cue brisket sando with homemade pickles and pork breakfast sandwich with bacon and an egg … preach.

But good barbecue isn’t easy, and Towne is no stranger to working 90-hour weeks. He and his staff make everything but the bread and tortillas—all local, organic and super fresh. He casually lists off menu ideas like blue corn tortillas and tamales with brisket drippings instead of lard (*wipes drool off chin*). Someone please get this guy a non-mobile place to cook already.

A lot has changed since the Gordo’s market stall a few years ago, huh?

AUSTIN TOWNE: Now it’s turned into something where people count on me to cure their hangover on Sundays. Last weekend we were gone, and people hit me up like “hey really needed you this morning.” It’s funny, it’s such a silly path, and was so unexpected. We really enjoy it, that’s my biggest thing—even when we have rough days, we are still laughing and having fun. We have two flat-tops now with the truck, and much more space, which makes a big difference.

Even with that space it’s still not enough; we are constantly moving forward. A new place is the appropriate move, but I’ve gotten used to being told no in Santa Cruz, so I’m being optimistic and have a few other projects going on.

You’ve got lots of veggie options, way more than you used to.

In Santa Cruz you have to cover all of the bases to make things work. If it were up to me, I’d do true farm-to-bowl, and break down one whole animal where everything gets used. What’s cool is the farmers market is its own community; I can see what’s coming into season and work with the farmers around.

If I get to open my dream spot and do Tex-Mex, I know whole hogs won’t be for everyone, we’ll still have separate vegetarian options, because that’s important here.

Gordo Gustavo’s is at most farmers markets.

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