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Review: Gourdough’s Public House goes nuts with doughnuts on San Antonio River Walk

March 2, 2019 GMT

Note: This is a Just a Taste review, which the Express-News does soon after a restaurant or bar opens to give our first impressions.

After months of sweet teasing, the San Antonio River Walk outpost of Austin-based Gourdough’s Public House is open.

The restaurant definitely has a gimmick — nearly everything on the menu is either served on, served with or just plain is a doughnut. It’s a gimmick that fits right in with the surrounding River Walk excess, and it also happens to be a gimmick that results in some surprisingly enjoyable food.

Gourdough’s grand opening celebration and rollout of its full menu and cocktail list is planned for Saturday, but I snuck in for a visit the day before while the restaurant was in a soft-opening mode with a limited menu.

On the menu: Yes, Gourdough’s is all about doughnuts, but not like that. Don’t believe me? Then try the Ron Burgundy ($12.99). It’s a big, beefy and well-seasoned burger stacked with bacon, a fried egg and guacamole. You almost forget it has doughnuts standing in for the bun — they’re made from a beignetlike dough that’s neither sweet nor salty, really just a pillowy bread fried to a nice crisp. It isn’t until the guac and egg yolk erupt from the hole on the top that you’re reminded of the bun’s true nature.

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The same holds for the Cubano sandwich ($10.99), this time the doughnut bun getting a little flattened and extra crispy from a few minutes on a griddle. Otherwise, it’s a traditional and flavorful melange of roasted pork, ham and pickle.

The schtick doesn’t always work. Doughnuts are reduced to not-quite-crisp, dense and unpleasant nuggets masquerading as croutons in the Kail Caesar! ($12.99) salad.

The Country Clucker ($16.99) takes the act to extremes. This time a thick and juicy slab of crispy fried chicken breast sits atop what the menu bills as a potato pancake, but in practice behaved like a bigger and flatter fried doughnut. The two are then doused with an avalanche of creamed corn and candied jalapeños. It’s ridiculous and over-the-top, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

I found some likable side dishes in the Okra Winfrey ($8.99), an order of battered and fried pickled okra pods served with buttermilk dressing, and the bone marrow butter beans ($5.99), a soulful cast-iron skillet of creamy legumes that felt far more farm-to-table than deep-fried indulgence.

On ExpressNews.com: Review: Mixtli’s modernist Mexican food earns San Antonio critic’s first 4-star restaurant rating

Of course, we can hardly talk about Gourdough’s and San Antonio in the same review without mentioning the Bidi Bidi Bon Bon ($7.99). It’s an extravagant doughnut topped with glittery purple cream cheese icing, chocolate bonbons and little (almost) tooth-cracking candy pearls that was designed as a tribute to the late Tejano singer Selena. While no dessert could ever do the iconic artist justice, this one does its best to serve as a loving nod to her sweet side.

Location: 215 Losoya Street, 210-774-4010, gourdoughs.com, Facebook: @gourdoughs

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday

Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | pstephen@express-news.net | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen