The Bearded Baking Company: More Than Bread Alone at Still Austin

Chef Wes Dills’ menu adds a savory glow to the distillery’s spirited gem

Truth: You’ve never had biscuits & gravy this good before. You’ve seldom had any sort of brunch item this good before. So – what the hell is it doing, coming out of a food truck in the courtyard of a local distillery?

Okay, in the first place, let’s admit: That question is a bit ridiculous. It’s been years since everyone discovered that some of the best eating in this town is from its evershifting population of food trucks. And it’s not so long ago that all the distilleries and breweries (and often the bars and clubs) made sure there was a dedicated food truck or two nearby – in a parking lot, at least, if not in an elegantly designed courtyard.

But, still, you take a bite of the amazing biscuits & gravy cooked up by Wes Dills for the Bearded Baking Company at Still Austin, and you think, “In the name of St. Anthony Bourdain, how?”

And as you nom your way through a few more, nearly equally impressive dishes – Bubba’s BLT, Mrs. E’s Cold Plate Combo, that Mushroom-and-Black-Garlic-and-Brie Croissant – and especially if you chase the glorious grub with cocktails made by the friendliest bartenders ever to wield those grain-to-glass spirits of Still Austin … well, by that point you might just accept your good fortune and merely want to pass your compliments along to the chef.

So, who is that chef? And what’s he doing here, and why is this food so damned good?

We already told you his name: Wes Dills. He’s originally from North Carolina.

“I was born in eastern North Carolina, in a little town called Dudley,” says the baker – and, yes, he’s definitely bearded. “We’re closest to either Mount Olive, which is known for its pickles, or Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson AFB. And that’s what brought my dad from the western end of the state, up around the mountains: He was in the Air Force, and that’s where he met my mom.”

Okay, that’s kind of sweet. And what brought chef Dills to Austin?

“Well, my husband and I had basically always lived in North Carolina,” he tells us. “And I was in a job where I wasn’t very happy, and he wasn’t happy with his job, and it was starting to affect our health, our marriage, and – we wanted to be able to say we’d lived somewhere besides North Carolina, you know? We love North Carolina, but we wanted to say ‘We did this and it was an experience, it was an adventure.’ So in December of 2018, we came out to visit my best friend and her husband – they were stationed in Killeen – and we were here for two hours and Adam was like, ‘Do you wanna move here?’ And we got here in May of 2019.”

Okay, that’s kind of sweet, too. But, now, what about this food? This is the Bearded Baking Company, after all. Baking doesn’t have much to do with gravy, right? Nor does it have to do with the sumptuous Rosie’s Pomme de Terre, which is “Pearl’s potatoes smothered in grilled pimento cheese, bacon lardons, green onion, and Marguerite’s Ranch.” That’s not baking, right? And we’re not even going to get into wondering who the hell are this Rosie and Pearl and Marguerite. Just, please, chef Dills – solve the mystery of how you’re able to make all this stuff taste so good?

“I’m a classically trained chef turned baker,” confesses the bewhiskered maestro. “I did take a couple of baking courses in college, but it was just to understand the fundamentals – so, if my pastry chef was out for the day, I could put something together to sell. But I always had this kind of love for baking: My mom made wedding cakes when I was really little. And in school I was always more on the creative end: I was awful at math, I was awful at English and all of that – but I was good at arts and crafts. And food, food was like this edible art. Creative, but you could eat it. So I went to culinary school.”

Ah, now the game is afoot …

“And then I was in a big restaurant that had 700 seats,” says chef Dills. “There were two full working kitchens, and I was there for about three months – and I hated it. So I left the field completely for seven years, went to work for a winery, and then eventually got back into cooking and got a job at East Carolina University as the sous chef for an executive catering chef. And when I was pastry chef there, I had a team of like eleven. And we got to do show cakes, and we made a cake that could feed 5,000 people – literally: we invited the entire town – but we also got to do more refined dessert buffets and spreads for the chancellor and his guests. And it was great; but then, later, I kind of hit that ceiling. I couldn’t go to executive chef – which I didn’t want to do – but I was already upper management, and I wasn't cooking. It was all corporate, all accounting – you’ve-got-to-hit-these-numbers-or-else-you’re-a-failure type of deal. And that whole time, I’m baking on the side and selling cakes. And I came up with this cookie, the chocolate-chocolate chip-chip cookie.”

The … what now?

“I call it my C-4,” says chef Dills, grinning. “And people were always like, ‘Can I get a dozen of those?’ And eventually it got to the point where I was like, Yeah, I can do this – I can make this work. And that’s when I became a baker full time. And now, here at Still Austin, I’m incorporating my savory skills as well.”

Okay, so it’s sweet and savory … and baking … and beyond. It’s the Bearded Baking Company in the courtyard of Still Austin, is what it is – in The Yard at 440 E. St. Elmo Road – and it’s where we’ll be returning as soon as we can, for brunch or lunch or dinner.

Because, for real, this is like Four Seasons quality at Kerbey Lane prices.

Because, again, regardless of how tasty everything else is, too: You’ve never had biscuits & gravy this good before.

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