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Easy Does It

13 Feb

East Sixth Street is not a place I frequent often – too dirty, too wild and too young for my taste.  But I know the city has been trying to revitalize this area in recent years – Sixth Street is after all what Austin is known for.  I’m happy to report that a great new addition has just opened up on this iconic street and I think it’s exactly what this area needs.

The place is Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden.  When I first heard the name, I thought “Mmm…beer and baked goods??  That’s an interesting combination.”  Interesting combinations usually get my attention, so of course I had to see it for myself.  It is located on the south side of east 6th, just west of  I-35.  The store front is very inviting and classy, something this street desperately needs (they don’t call it “dirty six” for nothing).  When you walk in, you are immediately greeted by friendly staff and an array of baked goods on display.  Behind the glass wall, you can see the bakers hard at work – like little elves!  This is a great place to order a coffee and pastry to go.

However, take a look to your right and you see a brightly lit arrow, beckoning you down a staircase to where the real action is.  Down here in the basement is the beer garden part of the equation – a tavern surrounded by painted brick walls with one very long bench seat along the perimeter of the space and plenty of wooden tables/chairs.  You could fit a lot of people down here.  There is also an outdoor patio that steps out to Waller Creek.  The much neglected Waller Creek, which begins at the UT campus and meanders its way through downtown, is about to get a serious facelift through an exciting revitalization project that is just in the beginning stages, with the goal of turning what equates to 20 city blocks into a useable, urban green space.  After this project is complete, Easy Tiger will be on prime real estate.  If  you are at all interested in this huge undertaking,  you can read about it here.

Mmm...wonder what's down here??

They have a great selection of beers on draft, as well as a few wines.  This is a great place to hide away with a few (or many) friends to put back a few cold ones – it has the charm of an old tavern that has been here for years.   Most likely you will have worked up an appetite by now.  No worries, Easy Tiger has that covered – as in awesome sausage made in-house.  I tried the sausage of the day, which was made of lamb.  And it was awesome.  I ordered it as a sandwich and it came on this fantastic baguette that was a cross between a soft pretzel and french bread.  Really good folks.  I also tried their homemade beer cheese with a pretzel – pretty tasty.

I had to take a bite - couldn't wait

My impression of Easy Tiger?  I like it.  It’s comfortable, it has a fun atmosphere, its good for an intimate one-on-one date and it can also handle a large gathering.  The food menu is not extensive – basically if you don’t like bread, cheese or sausage, you’re out of luck (however, make note that they do serve vegetarian sausage).  I did not see any evidence of a happy hour, but the place has only been open 4 weeks, so that could change.   As far as I can tell, Easy Tiger gets the “bake shop” part right and with the “beer garden” part, you can’t go wrong.

Easy Tiger on Urbanspoon

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Park your backside at Parkside

15 Jan

One of the reasons why I wanted to write this blog was to discover the culinary gems in my own city and to rediscover my own favorite restaurants by eating and enjoying food mindfully, so that I am again reminded of why I love that particular place. This week I found a culinary gem that I am definitely adding to my faves list – Parkside.  This restaurant  has been in operation for while and why it took me so long to check out, I have no idea!  But I am so glad I did.  My friend and photographer, Melissa Skorpil, grabbed her camera and joined me for a truly tasty happy hour.

Parkside is located downtown on the corner of 6th and San Jacinto.   The place is divided into two separate spaces – the bar area and the dining room.  We chose to sit on the bar side, which also has a long row of tables along one wall.  I found this room to be quite beautiful.  The windows along the front allowed in such nice late afternoon light.  The space is very urban, with brick walls, exposed ductwork and a stainless steel bar counter  – I felt like I was in New York.  We arrived as soon as the place opened at 5, but by 6 pm the bar side was completely full.  Even with this many people, the noise level was not high, so it was easy to carry on a conversation.  Big plus.

Happy hour at Parkside runs daily, from 5 to 7 pm, and includes half off their bar menu, half price beer and cocktails.  They have some good beer choices, though all are in the bottle, no drafts.  After ordering a Rye Ale from Real Ale, we turned to the bar menu.  Oh the choices!  The food sounded divine and we didn’t hesitate to dig right in.

Amazing ceviche

We first ordered the risotto fritters – crispy brown balls filled with creamy risotto and covered with paper-thin parmesan cheese shavings, with sofrito (tomato salsa puree) for dipping.  A great choice for you vegetarians out there.  Next up was the ceviche.  Ceviche is one of my favorite foods and, if done well, is pure heaven to me.  And this was done well.  It’s a basic recipe with bits of salmon, tomato, onion, avocado and herbs and it tasted so fresh, with just a hint of tartness. Yum.

Even more amazing grilled cheese

We also ordered the petite grilled cheese.  I have one word for this dish – adorable.  The cuteness factor alone is enough to order this item – four tiny round sandwiches consisting of buttery bread grilled until slightly crispy and filled with the most divine melted cheese I have ever tasted – Taleggio cheese to be exact.  Tiny pieces of smoked onion and roasted red pepper are held on top by a wooded skewer pierced through each sandwich.  The dish is garnished with wispy green dill and a swipe of homemade ketchup.  This was by far the best grilled cheese we had ever tasted.

Another reason to go to Parkside for happy hour?  The price.  Most of the items on the bar menu range from $5.50 to $11 – and half off during happy hour is a fantastic deal!  I found the quality of the food to be superb and the presentation creative.  The chef/owner of Parkside, Shawn Cirkiel, also opened up a pizzeria next door called Backspace, which I can only imagine is fantastic as well (but of course I will need to check this out for myself).  His next project that I am anticipating with glee is Olive & June, an Italian restaurant set to open this March in the space once occupied by El Arbol.

My recommendation?  Get your hungry little self to Parkside as soon as possible, bring your friends and enjoy some fantastic food at a great price.  Another culinary gem just got added to my list – what great restaurant have you discovered lately?

Parkside on Urbanspoon

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