Novemburger: Parkside

Because 50 Burgers, 50 Days wasn’t enough, I’ll write about a new burger every day this month. And next. We’ll call that Decemburger.
Day 9: Parkside
301 E. Sixth St. 474-9898,
Hours: 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.09.11
The burger: The Parkside burger ($11) is an example of how a high-tone restaurant treats a blue-collar necessity: with a bakery-caliber roll, top-shelf vegetables, salted white cheese and meat that would merit the same waiter’s adjectives as, say, that night’s grilled venison with farro and Brussels sprouts. It’s cooked on the red side of medium-rare, almost like a tartare, with a fat-to-lean ratio that lets you know it’s OK to be a little sloppy. That’s what the white cloth napkins are for.
What this burger lacks in plate-hogging circumference, it makes up for in height, suggesting where the Parkside menu will take you from here. This is cheating, really, sliding this burger into a Novemburger series with guys like Wally’s and the Stallion. But it’s a secret worth sharing, a gateway to one of Austin’s best restaurants and a handshake with Shawn Cirkiel, the chef and owner who represents the new generation of Austin restaurant entrepreneurs the same way Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso (Z'Tejas, Roaring Fork) and Larry Perdido and Chuck Smith (Moonshine, Hopdoddy) did for theirs. Cirkiel expanded his influence this year with the Backspace, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria adjacent to Parkside, and he'll extend his reach in 2012 with the Italian restaurant Olive & June in the former El Arbol space. 
At Parkside, the bar menu, cocktails and beer are half price during happy hour, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m. daily. That burger is on the bar menu, and for those two hours, there’s no better burger in Austin for the price. And the twilight view from Parkside’s upstairs balcony is priceless. You can see Sixth Street start to shuffle awake, when the Segways head back to the barn and the street starts to fill up with tourists, tweakers and tow trucks.
Fries or rings? Even at the happy hour price of $5.50, the Parkside burger comes equipped with fries, the kind a real restaurant makes. And while they’re not the stock and trade of a raw-bar/progressive bistro, they’re given the same white-jacket treatment, precision-cut and sharp with garlic and the crisp heat of the kitchen.
And you won’t cry over onion rings when you can have blond pâté instead for the giveaway price of $5 during happy hour. It’s whipped and mounded and plated with a dab of strawberry, richer than the burger, more luxurious than you probably deserve, with notes of iron from duck liver alloyed with more subtle metals like Maker’s Mark and cream.
Your Wednesday incentive: When happy hour’s over, oysters and sparkling wine are still half-price all night on Wednesdays. Parkside sources from both coasts, a smart hedge against the daggers man and nature cast against the ocean’s hypersensitive shellfish. A glass of South African rosé is the right sparkling wine for burgers, pâté and oysters alike.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)