Friday, April 9, 2010

Parkside Café in Austin, Texas: Sitting Pretty on Famed 6th Street

The last time I had darkened the doors of 301 East Sixth Street in Austin (TX), it was New Year’s Eve of 1998. The eatery, then a steakhouse, saw me ring in the New Year by finding a coat button (yes, a button) floating in my cup of cold soup. The joint in question, as it happened, was a questionable joint.
Flash forward a decade or so, and, my how times have changed.  Now the home of Parkside Café (since 2008), the dining experience was much better upon my return. The spread was supreme, the setting festive and, impressively, the food was served hot and sans accessories.

Sandwiched between venerable bars and nightclubs-come-lately, Parkside Cafe may very well boast the only cloth tablecloths on the block, but the award-winning eatery still manages to maintain the party theme that is Sixth Street’s hallmark. Loud but not pushy. Nice but not pretentious. A fun-filled calm amidst a brewing storm. And, where else can you get dish towels as table napkins?

We arrived and were chaperoned to a window booth that allowed us to keep the feel of the night—observing the Sixth Street scene and the people watching of those carousing down the party lane. The guys in the group initially gravitated toward the bar, where a stocked shelf and a couple of televisions called. We would soon find the service to be prompt and efficient, belying the hot-dog cart operation within eyeshot outside on the corner. (In our instance, it took only one pleasant, helpful server to guide us through the wine and entrée menu; in the operation outside, the three-man crew went from napkin-to-wiener-to-bun conveyer belt fashion.) I sometimes find the server in a crowded restaurant considers my name to be “Guy Seated at Head of Table Number 14;” on this night, this was certainly not the case.

The menu featured quality over quantity, which is preferred. Sometimes, one needs a brown paper sack and deep breaths when a flair-filled server hovers above and asks you to pare down your selection from a menu with more copy than “Beowulf.”

We started with a sampling of appetizers: fried calamari, raw oysters, and the more unique-- potato gnocchi with parmesan and arugula puree and a roast baby beet salad with Texas citrus, arugula and goat cheese. All were thoroughly enjoyed. For entrees, we tried the seared salmon, the beef tenderloin, the venison skirt steak and their specialty—chicken duo. However, the show-stopper was the fried okra with homemade Ranch dressing. We topped it off with the delectable dough donut for dessert.

It is most unusual to expect a fun-yet-fine dining experience when visiting Sixth Street, where pizza on the fly and beer from a keg are the norms. But we found it not only possible but probable at Parkside Café. Simply put, as written in “The Austin Chronicle” (June 13, 2008): Downtown Austin is a better place because Parkside is there.”

Parkside

www.parkside-austin.com
301 E 6th St Austin, TX 78701
(512) 474-9898
Marika Flatt and Jeff Mudd are both freelance writers in Austin, Texas, who enjoy a fine meal and tasty beverages.