The first night I got into Austin, I decided to take a walk down Sixth Street or the “Dirty 6″ as they call it. I had done quite a bit of research of where I wanted to eat but had heard so much about this (in)famous street, I thought I might stumble upon something. And once I saw Parkside, I knew it was my kind of place.
Parkside is a bit of an oasis in the middle of the mayhem. Here’s a New American restaurant serving the kinds of things I’ve been finding at restaurants in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and of course, LA. And since it was Wednesday, they were offering some specials including oysters for half off. Sign me up. I got a dozen which included three varietals. My favorites were the smaller, creamier oysters.
I started with the Whiskey Blues cocktail made with local Texas whisky, Balcones, Balcones is the first Texas whisky (they go with the “no E in whisky” philosophy) distillery since Prohibition. Also in the cocktail was Cherry Herring and Fernet. Personally I would have liked this cocktail stirred as it was all spirits, like a proper Manhattan. Still, it was very nicely balanced with a slight Fernet finish.
Other cocktails I would have liked to have tried:
The Aromatic– Tru Organic gin, tawny port, organic orange liqueur
Bitter Mexican– Milagro tequila, Zucca, muddled strawberry, lemon
Texas Negroni– Organic Republic anejo tequila, Campari, Kaffir leaves
Mezcalita– Ilegal mezcal, brandy, jalepeno, Peychaud’s bitters
There were also a couple of classics including the Last Word and Monte Carlo for those looking for the familiar.
I also got a couple of appetizers; the crispy sweetbreads and duck pastrami. It was at this moment that I realized I was out with friends and that I had come to Texas with at least one other. I wanted to order the bone marrow, Texas quail, crab fritters, blue prawns –basically all the appetizers. I’m sure many of my friends would have been into the petite grilled cheese and blond pate. I wondered if I had room to try an entree. Maybe the grilled venison or the green garlic risotto.
But no, I knew I couldn’t eat all that much food. The crispy sweetbreads with a pickled vegetable salad and pine nuts was just right. Beautifully composed, it was my sort of dish.
Also on the appetizers list was the duck pastrami with purple mustard, pickles and radish. It came with rye crisp and I suppose you could call it a deconstructed Reuben. Really great duck and the perfect size for one.
Parkside had two rooms for seating. I sat on the side with the large bar. While not packed, almost every table was full. I found dining alone is a great time to really take in what really happens at a restaurant. It’s like theatre. The table to the right of me were a gay couple and their beard talking about (not) eating. The couple next to me on the left decided to canoodle midway through the meal and the guy joined the girl on the booth bench. Prior to that make-out session, they dissected the menu like “foodies” and budding mixologist wannabes. It was fun. And I liked talking to my server who funny enough was from LA. Later I would meet people from all over the country who moved to Austin. It seems like a booming town. I saw construction everywhere and people found jobs in the hospitality industry quite easily.
If you’re in town for SXSW, I would recommend Parkside for the raw bar and the appetizers.