Friday, February 8, 2013

Shawn Cirkiel's Parkside Celebrates Five Years with Oysters & Champagne

Parkside—Austin’s first gastropub—is celebrating its fifth anniversary with bubbles. On Monday, February 11, every table will start the evening with complimentary champagne and oysters—a perfect way to mark the occasion. Dinner reservations are recommended for the anniversary fete. What started as a simple East 6th Street restaurant serving fries, steaks, and oysters—a concept that seemed crazy at the time to nearly everyone except restaurateur and über chef Shawn Cirkiel—has morphed into something more sophisticated yet still playful. “People have this need to want more of an experience,” explains Cirkiel. “We adapted to that, and everything has gotten better.”

Since parkside’s inception, the menu has reflected Cirkiel’s culinary acumen. “We like to eat oysters, really good french fries, and egg sandwiches—but we also like sweetbreads and bone marrow. So for us, it is important that we do all those things well,” he says. Naturally, as parkside has evolved and grown, so has the team behind its success. Cirkiel, who also owns backspace, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, and Southern Italian hotspot olive & june, is still very involved with most aspects of parkside, but he can’t be in the kitchen all the time. Chef de cuisine and Nashville-native Jeffrey Rhodes, who worked as the sous chef at San Francisco’s Michelin-rated Chez TJ before joining parkside about a year ago, has stepped up and plays a vital role in developing the menu—imparting his passion for updated Southern American cooking. “More than anything, the past five years have taught me how much it is not just about me but about all the people around,” explains Cirkiel.

That camaraderie has been prevalent since day one. Cirkiel remembers how difficult it was in the beginning—the long hours during their first SXSW, the pressing business demands, the night they chased and captured a bat during dinner service. But there has always been a feeling of accomplishment, an impression of excitement. Part of that energy stems from being downtown. “It really is what defines Austin,” Cirkiel says. “The nightlife, the scene, the people, and the music—for us to embrace that and be a part of that is lucky.” The rest emanates from Cirkiel—his entrepreneurial instincts, innovative thinking, appreciation of sustainable food, and interaction with people. “I think we give a sense of longevity. Maybe it is because I’m from Austin, but I feel like parkside has always been here. It is hard to think of Austin without it,” he says. “It is the way we operate our restaurants. The way we think about them and focus on not being a flash in the pan but on creating energy and quality—and giving each space its own soul.”

parkside is located downtown at 301 E. Sixth St. For more information about parkside and to make a reservation for Monday evening, please call (512) 474-9898, or visit

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