301 E. Sixth St.
Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 474-9898
Hours: Sun.-Sat. 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Happy Hour daily from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.)
The bar district of Sixth Street is not necessarily the destination that comes to mind for fine dining; a welcome greasy slice at the end of a night of bar hopping, perhaps, but not fine dining. Well, the folks at Parkside seem primed and ready to shatter that idea.
Parkside has a modern warehouse meets French country feel to it. Despite the massive space, Parkside feels cozy and warm, thanks to a Michael Hsu design that includes exposed brick, dim lighting, and wooden flooring. From the kitchen towels as napkins to scattered rustic china cabinets and hutches, Parkside manages to feel a bit like having a meal in someone’s dining room.
We visited Parkside around happy hour on a weekday evening before a show at the Paramount Theater. We decided going in to limit ourselves to the bar menu to check out the Parkside happy hour, which lasts from 5-7 p.m. every day.
The most important thing to know about Parkside’s happy hour is that everything on the bar menu and all of the cocktails are half price. The bar menu at Parkside is extensive, and goes well beyond what is expected of bar grub.
We sampled several items so we could taste a variety of Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s offerings. We started with fried okra. The okra was rough cut at an angle, lightly battered, and served piping hot in a mini cast iron skillet. The menu said the accompanying was a house-made ranch, but it tasted more like Green Goddess dressing. Whatever it was, it was tangy and delicious.
The Paté Grand Mére was our next choice. This style of paté is a rustic, terrine-style charcuterie dish (grand mére is French for grandmother). Parkside’s version was creamy and delicious. The paté was served with toasted country bread, mustard, arugula, and house-made pickles.
One of our favorite choices were the Panisse Fries. This twist on the french fry is made with chickpeas, rather than potatoes, resulting in a crispy exterior with an unexpectedly creamy interior. The fries were served with a refreshing, tangy tapenade and harissa aioli. Harissa is a hot red pepper paste commonly used in Mediterranean or Northern African dishes, and it was a perfect accompaniment to the fries.
We also loved the quail. The delicate quail were cooked to perfection, and served atop a delicate combination of blue cheese with julienned apples and celery. The apples and celery offered an appreciated crunch and a refreshing sweetness. Likewise, the bite of the blue cheese erased any gaminess from the quail. This was an inspired, simple dish.
Before moving to sweets, we felt compelled to sample the oyster platter. Parkside has an impressive offering of oysters from across North America. The day of our visit, the oyster platter included a sampling from Rhode Island, Prince Edward Island, and Virginia. They ranged from sweet and delicate to sturdier and briny. The oysters were served with cocktail sauce, house mignonette, and a serious horseradish. This platter is a great way to introduce yourself to an array of Parkside’s raw bar offerings, and at happy hour prices, it’s a steal at only $14.
We decided to finish up with two desserts–the spiced doughnut and the chocolate mousse. Although we were very impressed with the savory samplings from the happy hour menu, the desserts might have been the most impressive part of our meal. The presentations were beautiful, and the desserts were designed with clear effort to address all flavor varieties from sweet to salty to tangy, and embraced a range of textures from fluffy to crunchy (the cinnamony doughnut paired with the salty pecans) to creamy (dreamy house-made ice creams and delicate, rich mousse). Both desserts were complex, multifaceted, and delicious.
Parkside is definitely a welcome addition to a downtown area known mostly for its after-hours eats. The menu is inventive yet rustic, playful yet inspired. The happy hour menu is an unbelievable bargain, and a great way to introduce yourself to this creative, delicious restaurant. This place has generated a ton of buzz, and while it’s not always the case, in Parkside’s case, the attention is well deserved.