The original Austin restaurant from chef Shawn Cirkiel continues to draw locals and visitors alike to its location in the heart of downtown (tip: ask for a window seat when you make your reservation so you can enjoy the people watching on what's be come known as Dirty Sixth—for good reason). A nice launching point for a night out, parkside boasts some of the best happy hour deals in town, and it’s just upscale enough to turn a night out into a celebration or a special event.
Cirkiel is one of several of Austin's well-known restaurateurs, with three other respected and popular restaurants under his umbrella: Backspace, a Neopolitan-style pizzeria; Olive & June, which offers family-style Southern Italian food; and his newest venture, the recently opened Chavez, specializing in upscale Southwestern-inspired cuisine. All four restaurants feature local and seasonal food.
The dinner menu at parkside is a spin on standard gastro-pub fare. Under the watchful eye of executive chef Jeffrey Rhodes, plate after plate of reimagined comfort food flows from the kitchen, with menu items changing periodically as the seasons shift. Some items are more successful than others, the fried okra was so heavily breaded that the okra got a bit lost, and the burger was good and a great price during happy hour, but did not live up to the level of hype it receives. The dining experience overall is more than worth a peek into the creative minds within the parkside kitchen though, and there's no shortage of menu items to leave you with a positive impression.
Known for their oyster selection, the oysters on the half-shell and the raw bar are not to be missed. A rotating selection of oysters flown in from both the east and west coasts can be ordered by the half dozen or the dozen, as well as on three different oysters plates with varying quantities, but all with the chef's picks for the day. If you're there for happy hour, don't miss the oyster platter with four each of three varieties of oysters for the bargain price of $15. For dinner, try the grand platter, featuring nine oysters plus three items from the raw bar, again, all chef's choice. If you're ordering items a la carte, the fluke ceviche—with toasted almonds, lemon, and chives—was a favorite, though all of the raw bar menu items were pleasers.
From the starter menu, the crispy calimari won't disappoint, but the tempura quail with apple cider, pumpkin caramel crema, and Brussels sprouts yields a deeper and more satisfying flavor. Or, venture out further from the norm and try the marrow bones, served with an herb salad and crusty bread for spreading, or the duck pastrami with kohlrabi and preserved plums. Be sure to share so you can save room to try items from the rest of the menu, then order another round from the bar. Their take on a Moscow Mule, the Siberian Donkey, has just a hint of spiciness, or if you prefer something a bit sweeter, try the Sage Blossom with Milagro Reposada, pomegranate-sage shrub, and lemon.
When it comes time to order the entrées, the pan-seared rabbit and the pork duo were both nice and beautifully plated, but the lamb osso bucco and the dayboat scallops were ultimately more memorable. Add a side of the roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary marshmallow fluff, and don't worry if you grew up with an aversion to the classic sweet potato casserole. This is another animal entirely, and the unexpected but lovely hint of rosemary will leave you thinking of this dish long after your visit. The broccolini with chili oil and cherry or the sweet and sour Brussels sprouts with spiced peanuts are great add-ons as well.
If you aren't already loosening your belt, go straight to the tiramisu doughnuts on the dessert menu. Be sure to include some of each item on the plate with every forkful, and you’ll walk out with a smile on your face.
301 E. 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701
Good for: groups, dates, happy hour, special occasion, events
ABOUT THOSE TIRAMISU DOUGHNUTS...
Extraordinary Recipes from Austin Chef's Table
This collection of recipes contributed from some Austin's premiere chefs include two dessert recipes from parkside's executive pastry chef Steven Cak. Similar to the Tiramisu Doughnuts are the Chocolate Doughnuts with Pecan Bourbon Ice Cream and Squash Cream. Also included is Cak's Banana Parfait with Cashew Ice Cream, Chocolate Soil, and Rum Caramel. The cookbook contains a bounty of other great recipes that cover every meal of the day.