Tag Archives: food photography

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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Spend your pesos at El Alma Cafe

11 Dec

El Alma Cafe

A friend of mine suggested I check out El Alma Cafe, a Mexican restaurant on Barton Springs Rd that opened this summer, replacing what was El Chile.  My husband and I  arrived around 7 pm on a Friday and the place was hopping.  It is not very big,  you are able to scan the entire restaurant from the front entrance and the tables are placed closely together.   But this arrangement gives a feeling of intimacy and coziness and I like it.  I absolutely love the colorful artwork on the walls and the lighting that illuminates the room makes the place sparkle.

Happy hour runs Monday – Friday 3 to 7 pm and Saturday – Sunday 3 to 6 pm.  Their drink specials consist of $2 Lone Stars, $3 Sangrias, $4 house margaritas and $5 margarita chilangas, which are a spicy, orange infused frozen margarita (yum).  I was really hungry so I was mostly interested in what they had to offer in terms of food.  The happy hour food deal is half priced appetizers and they have some great choices.  We tried the empanadas – crispy, deep fried, filled with mushroom and cheese and served with salsa and guac.  Very tasty.  We also ate the ceviche clasico, which are pieces of lime marinated black drum fish tossed with tomato, avocado, serrano peppers and red onion and served with thick tostada chips.  I love ceviche  and will order it any chance I get – theirs did not disappoint.

ceviche

empanadas

I was still hungry so decided to order an entree and boy am I glad I did.  Sometimes it pays to ask the waiter what his favorite dish is and he did not steer me wrong.  I love meat but the veggie verde enchiladas were so fantastic that I did not miss meat one bit.  The veggie filling of poblanos, mushroom and spinach was so so flavorful and what really did it for me was the smokey yet sweet blanket of tomatillo sauce.  I think I could drink that stuff!  I consider enchiladas the gold standard for mexican food and these were the best vegetarian enchiladas I have ever had.  Seriously.  They are paired up with white rice and black beans for $10.95 and are worth every penny.

I found the quality of the food and the service of the staff to be excellent at El Alma.  The appetizers, though good, are a little expensive if you aren’t able to take advantage of happy hour prices –  full price is $7.95 to $9.95 and they are small.   The main dishes, however,  are reasonably priced – the enchilada plates are $9.95 to $12.95.  They offer tacos a la carte of all sorts (I bet they are delicious) – $3.25 to $4 per taco.  There are also more expensive plates on the menu, varying from $14.95 to $18.95, but considering the yumminess factor (that’s a real word, right?) of the enchiladas, I bet they are worth it.

My vote – go to El Alma for the food.  Go for the atmosphere.  As far as for happy hour?  If you’re a fan of margaritas, 4 to 5 bucks seems pretty good.  If you like Lone Star beer, which I don’t, then you can’t beat 2 bucks for a beer (are they worth that?).  The appetizers are good but small and if you have an appetite like me, then my guess is you’ll be ordering off the regular menu soon enough – and that is not a bad thing.

El Alma on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour doesn’t get any simplier than this

3 Dec

One evening I decided to stick close to home and called up my good friend Melissa Skorpil, who also lives in my hood, to join me for a happy hour.  We decided to check out Simplicity Wine and Eats, one of the fun establishments on Burnet Rd.  We showed up at 5:30 and the place was pretty empty.  But that soon changed and as the sun went down, the atmosphere went up.  Nostalgic tunes from Depeche Mode were playing overhead, though not too loud so we could actually hold a conversation – what a concept.  Folks started filing in, with a  group of about 15 lively people pushing tables together to create their own party.  Simplicity has a modern and simplistic feel to it, nothing pretentious.  It lacks a little in style compared to other wine bars I’ve been to, but is very comfortable and functional. 

The one thing that I admire about this place and helps it stand out from the crowd is their philosophy of creating an almost zero waste restaurant.  On their website they state that “we compost all of the disposable dishes and utensils (made of renewable corn & bamboo) & we recycle all our wine and beer bottles. Simplicity is a 100+ seat restaurant that only produces 3 bags of landfill trash per week!”  Really??  That is amazing to me because I know of a two person household, well…really a two person, two cat, two dog, two turtle and one gecko  household, who produces about the same amount!  So either they are really eco-friendly or we, um, I mean the other people, are completely wasteful.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say both are probably the case.  But I digress…

The point is that Simplicity is really trying to do their part in helping the environment and I can really get behind that idea.  Their happy hour is Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 7 pm, and offers half off of all starters, $5 wines by the glass, 15% off of all bottles of wine, $2 for all bottles or drafts of beer and $5 pitchers.  We opted for a pitcher of Blue Moon, which is the equivalent of 3 beers for only $5.  That is pretty darn cheap!  We also got a couple of appetizers, the spinach artichoke dip and papas aioli (thick cut potato wedges with garlic aioli dip).  The food here doesn’t have a decadent appearance since it is served in disposable bowls and plates with disposable utensils, but the dip was very fresh tasting and the potatoes were yummy.  The prices are very reasonable and really fantastic during happy hour – our pitcher of beer and two starters cost up a whopping $11!  Seriously.

Simplicity Wine and Eats

photo by Melissa Skorpil

Melissa and I had a great time and we both agreed that Simplicity Wine and Eats is worth coming back to.  Melissa, who is a photographer, brought along her camera and took a shot of me enjoying the beer.  Melissa is a great photographer and she specializes in portraits and food photography-handy for me to have a food photographer as a friend for this blog, eh?  If you’re interested in learning about Melissa’s photography services, view her website, Skorpil Photography.

Until next time, get happy Austin!

Simplicity Wine & Eats on Urbanspoon

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