Ladies who lunch. That’s the first prognosis when gazing at the menu at Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub, the new-ish tenant inside the old El Lobo nightclub on burgeoning Webberville Road in East Austin.

Soups [in a bread bowl!] salads and sandwiches comprise the whole of the menu alongside many interesting cocktails and draft beers. It’s always good to see local, skillfully wrought beers on tap in Austin but it seems like they’re always served alongside old, boring dinosaur beers like Harp, Smithwicks and the like. Whereas the boys in the plant at Austin Beerworks or Live Oak are likely to get off work and roll into a local bar to drown their sorrows and drink the fruit of their labor, it’s unlikely that the lads in the employ of Dundalk will be showing up in Austin anytime soon.

We order a small queso and a pint of Pearl Snap right off the bat and begin plotting the course through the rest of the menu.

The Gourmand’s folks have done a nice job on the remodel of the old nightclub. The checkered floor is buffed and polished and the ancient wooden bar acts as a nice anchor for the room. The typical band of derelicts that we affiliate with nightly are propped up on the bar, lots of greasy biker-looking guys and girls who’ve managed to cover every square inch of their hide with tattoos. Same ol same ol.

Hendrix is providing some soothing background music which is important. Too many joints in town are playing godawful music these days. In a town filled with great bands working hard for their money it’s always depressing to hear horseshit like Bjork polluting the aural atmosphere when we’re just trying to relax and enjoy ourselves.

The queso arrives and it’s a good version of the Tex Mex style served all over Austin. The totopos are made in house which is a huge bonus and shows that they have a genuine chef in the kitchen and not just some yahoo going through the motions. A thimble of salsa would have been most appreciated but this ain’t a Mexican restaurant.

The mains: We order The Goodfella, Gourmand’s riff on the classic Italian sub and a bread bowl of broccoli cheese soup. Our waiter is a friendly fellow with a pleasing demeanor, something that goes a long way in Austin where too many servers act like they’re doing you a favor by doing their jobs.

The food comes at out in a flash. The Goodfella is impressive. This being Texas it’s enormous and could easily feed two people. A giant loaf of bread is crammed with ham, salami, capicola and provolone with an utterly delicious sour relish straddling the affair. A bit of escabeche is served to the side but unfortunately it’s done bread and butter style which ruins it. Sour is good and sweet is bad when it comes to the vinegar-ing process.

Bread quality is of the utmost importance as we eat very few sandwiches. We’d love to see Gourmands source from Easy Tiger. The current loaf is fine but with David Norman putting out world class bread a few blocks away it would be easy to seriously amp up the bread program here.

A small side of housemade potato chips rides on one corner of the plate. We could eat a pound of these things and they exhibit once more that Gourmand’s has a chef in the back and not just some slacker banging out orders.

Reports begin filtering in from the other side of the table on the soup and they’re largely positive. My opposing eater is of the dainty appetite stripe so it’s odd to hear her complain of paltriness in the portion size as she eats like a 3 year old. I relieve her of one teaspoon of the soup and see the reason for the complaint. When it tastes that damn good you want a gallon or so of it.

Tab clocks in at $23. Not outrageous given the enormity of the sandwich. One half is resting comfortably in the fridge with a giant bullseye drawn on it for later.

We’ve been at a loss for the past few years for an East Austin sandwich fix. The closure of Al John’s left a giant, grinder-shaped hole in our hearts so it’s good to see a new restaurant that clearly takes their food seriously open up over in these parts.

We’re looking forward to returning to Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub to drape ourselves over the bar, do some heavy drinking then have another go at what’s coming out of a pretty serious kitchen.

Previous Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub coverage http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/10/25/Birth-Notice-Gourmands-Neighborhood-Pub?adminview=true

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