“We wanted to be a neighborhood place first—a place where the four of us could go enjoy a beer,” co-owner Mike Russell said. “This place caters to everybody, so there are no stigmas or stipulations.”
The ownership team is made up of two couples: Tiffany and Mike Russell as well as Caitlin Shea and Benjamin Siewart. The group still debates to this day whether to classify Gourmands as a restaurant or a bar.
“At the end of the day, we are a pub—a public house—and we accept everyone for who they are,” Siewart said.
“‘Bar’ alienates families, and we get a ton of families in here,” Shea added.
Strong word of mouth has helped Gourmands grow each year, Mike said, attracting a larger number of new customers from beyond the East Austin area. Sometimes the simplicity of the place takes people aback, Tiffany admits.
“Some people from different areas might not get all the hype,” she said.
But at the end of the day, Gourmands wins people over for its quality food, cheap drinks and good service, Siewart said.
“We’re just a neighborhood place,” he said. “To walk into something that’s not necessarily the norm, I think it challenges some people.”
When Gourmands first opened, the co-owners rotated management duties at the former Tejano bar.
“Then we all got burned out,” said Mike, who crafted Gourmands’ menu of sandwiches, soups and salads.
Mike continues to lead day-to-day duties at the neighborhood establishment, and the other co-owners remain involved despite having day jobs. Tiffany handles marketing duties, Shea hires new employees and Siewart manages Gourmands’ finances.
That hands-on approach has helped Gourmands favorably establish itself among its many regulars, Shea said, with most hailing from East Austin.
“I think we’re different because we have literally done everything ourselves,” she said. “Emotionally, physically and monetarily we have put our hearts into everything here.”
Origins behind the name
Nobody at the establishment is actually called Gourmand. Ownership decided on the name based on their own love for indulging. A gourmand is defined as a person who takes great pleasure and interest in consuming good food and drink, or a “glutton” who eats and drinks excessively, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Co-owner Mike Russell said the menu has not changed for the past 2 1/2 years. The Godfather ($8.75) features ham, Genoa salami, spicy capicola, provolone, pepperoncini relish, and oil and vinegar served on a hoagie roll. There is also the The Last Supper ($9), which includes roast beef, bacon, queso, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce and shaved onion.