Austin is weird- or at least the Austin you are most likely to see on your first night in Austin is weird. Walking down the booze soaked strip of 6th Street is, unexpectedly and kind of unfortunately, a common and baffling first visit stop for the Austin tourist. I spent my first night in Austin wandering this rue of revelers, wondering how all these bachelors and undergrads could be so drunk before 10 pm, what bartender meant when they offered “triples for 5 dollars”, and if the two were connected.
On my stroll down the block, a bikini-clad cowboy donning a confederate flag as a cape crossed my path and my first impressions were confirmed, Austin is really weird.
Austin is also amazing. This is what I discovered on my second night, when my path led off the beaten path and eastward to the East 6th Street neighborhood. This newly cool-ified neighborhood houses a DIY Drive-In, a parking lot turned food truck court, and some dive bars that brought me back to my days in the Northwest.
My final destination was 1100 East 6th Street, which will from now on be known as my favorite Austin address. This is where you will find East Side Show Room a cocktail bar and restaurant that emits an upscale ambience while embracing local Texan flavor.
The blackboard menu boasts daily specials along with the promise that all ingredients are 100% made in Texas, and you can't mess with that.
Upon arrival, I settled into the mood-lit bar with my book and a Tequila Ocho Margarita and looked over the dinner menu. Grilled Gulf Shrimp were a given for the starter. I can't get enough of the local seafood and am I little disappointed that I didn't get to cash in on crawfish season while in town. But the main course was a little more difficult to settle on.
While carnivores had a wide (free) range of choices on the menu- grassfed veal burger, pork loin, and goat chop, to name a few- I had narrowed the vegetarian options down to a delicious sounding acorn squash with a sweet and savory stuffing and the (maybe vegetarian?) Black Drum served with olives, fennel, and seasonal veggies.
This is how seduced I was by this place- I didn't even care what the Black Drum was- animal, mineral,vegetable whatever- I ordered it and was going to eat it no matter what.
It turns out Drum is fish (Southern friends can laugh at me at this point- but Californians, have you ever heard of this?) and it is also delicious.
Everything was delicious, actually. I'm not a food writer and I don't have the vocabulary to convey how great this food was, but here are some of my favorites flavors as I ate, while sipping on a glass of chilled Picpoul (what?! This is my favorite little white wine-you had me at hello, East Side Show Room!):
-Crispy polenta with wilted spinach crowned with GIANT (Texas, right?) shrimp that was grilled like they should be.
-A thick filet of Drum with snow peas and just enough salt from the kalamata olives and sweetness from the end-of-the-season tomatoes to make the dish perfection on a plate.
-The sweet taste of success one relishes upon having one of those meals you will never forget.
Thank you chef Sonya Cote, keep doing what you're doing and also thank you awesome bartender, who took care of this goofy traveler as she geeked out on great food and occupied and candle-lit corner with her book and the best night out she's had in a long time!