Can I take the butter to-go? (Clark’s Oyster Bar – Austin, TX)

My friend John and I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary. We went to a fancy dining spot. Okay, Clark’s isn’t “dress code required” fancy. It’s upscale casual with high dining prices. Well, John and I considered it high dining prices. We’re broke college students. Cut us a little sack. 🙂

Clark's Oyster Bar
Clark’s sign from the outdoor patio

Clark’s is a quaint bar located on West 6th Street. Around the area are art galleries, other restaurants, a bakery and a liquor store. Even more quaint homes reside on the side street. The parking situation is not idea, but it’s not impossible to deal with. Depending on the time of day, you can find empty curbsides with no restrictions.

Before you enter, you are standing on the porch with a long high table that stretches to the end before the porch swings around. The high table faces the street. Picnic tables run along the windows. When you enter, you face the bar and kitchen. Above the kitchen is a black sign listing out the oyster selection, cold bar and catch of the day. To your right, past the indigo aquarium, is a long booth with about ten white tables and two chairs on each table. The decor is simple. There is a mix between modern and ultra. Since it was dinnertime, the place was packed. You had folks who were dressed uber nicely and you also had folks who were dressed as if they came out from yoga.

Clark's Bar area
Courtesy of: Clark’s website

We got three oysters, two from Prince Edward Island and one from Maine (“Mookie Blue”) to start with. Note to oyster amateurs: Canada is the entry level. I went straight to the Maine oyster since it had a cool name. John thought the oysters were good, but could not eat more than two. I had one and sadly regretted it (more on that later). For entrees, John ordered a lobster roll with fries. I got the Catch of the Day, which was Bluefish with a side of watercress salad and a dressing that I believe was smoked paprika with herbs. Whatever it was, it was amazing. I used it on my fish and John used it on his fries. The seafood was super fresh, a plus for any seafood joint that is not near an ocean in my opinion. John’s lobster was not gummy, it was perfect. My Bluefish was to die for. It was crispy on top and it melts in your mouth on the inside. I’ve never seen a fish so white and beautiful!

Oysters

Lobster Roll
Compared to other places, this lobster roll was tall. The dish came with fries, pickles and butter.
Catch of the Day: Bluefish
Bluefish with a side of watercress salad, an amazing mystery dressing and a cooked lemon. Please excuse the oyster. Also, that red stuff is cocktail sauce.

Now the fun part. As I mentioned earlier, we hardly go to upscale downtown spots. My friends and I usually find the most casual, budget-friendly spot that isn’t a traditional fast food chain. Typical food spots include Torchy’s, coffee shops, or Mediterranean cafes. There’s a certain vibe that comes with places like Clark’s. You can hear it from people’s conversations: dealing with million dollar accounts at work, vacationing in Europe, escaping to the lake house at Horseshoe Bay, etc. They may not be dressed like a million bucks, but I’m pretty sure most of those people, if not all, had more than a couple hundred bucks in their bank account. That being said, here are the six things you shouldn’t do when you are a nicer place:

1. Don’t bring food from another food joint. I managed to get there and find parking at 6 PM. John and I were meeting at 6:30, so I had thirty minutes to kill. The outdoor patio didn’t look packed so I figured there’d be indoor seating. Less than a block away was Sweetish Hill Bakery, which I have heard is a top bakery in Austin. They close at 7 PM, so this was a now or never opportunity. I called up my mum to see if she wanted bread from the bakery. She, as always, says yes to bread from the bakery (grocery store bakery bread just doesn’t do trick). I grabbed a baguette ($1 folks! First time in my life that I have seen a whole baguette sell for $1!!!!! #success) and two “I love Texas” cookies, which were shortbread cookies with a red frosting heart. I thought about putting the treats in my car, but leaving bread and cookies in a car during a 100+ degree day is not a good idea. I had to take the food with me. Fortunately, the wait staff did not say anything since we got outdoor seats. But they didn’t bring us their bread until it after we got out oysters because John had to ask for it (he was on the verge of stealing my baguette).

Sweetish Hill Bakery

2. Google “How to eat (insert food here)” before you go into the restaurant. I’ve seen oysters before. I never ate one and neither has John. John said you should slurp them but I didn’t believe him. Or, I was too afraid to slurp them since oysters are slimy. So I got the tiny fork that came with the plate, put some cocktail sauce on top of it, picked up the white part and ate it whole. I highly recommend you don’t do that, unless you want to be borderline gagging. It was after then John Googled “how to eat oysters”. First, you have to make sure it’s detached and then you–you guessed it!–slurped it. Hm, I wonder if slurping it would give a better taste than bland mixed with medicine flavored cocktail sauce…

3. Warn your friends about dressing up. I’m guilty of this 100%. I love dressing up and find every moment to doll up. I had a Banana Republic short summer dress that ruffled on the bottom with flip flops and earrings. I thought John, who works at an immigration law firm as a legal assistant, would be coming in his work dress (collared button downs and dress pants are much the dress code at his office. I, on the other hand, work in a place that has no dress code). John did text me asking if he had time to put on shorts. I responded sure why not, failing to mention I had an above-average dressy dress on (this is why you should call and not text at the stoplight). When he got there, I gave myself the face palm. He came in a shirt and basketball shorts. We laughed it off obviously and he won the award for most comfortable in summer heat.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter what the guy behind you ordered. Again, I’m guilty for this. There was an old couple who sat behind us. The man ordered a plate and when it arrived, John and my jaws dropped. The man got a whole fish! We figured he ordered the catch of the day, so I got pretty excited and slightly intimidated at the thought of eating such a huge thing. When my plate came, we were confused. It was a filet, not a whole fish. Then we put logic to it and $29 was not going to be enough for a whole fish at that place. I didn’t care. I loved that filet. But yes, don’t try to act like you know what you are ordering. It never hurts to ask.

5. Don’t get excited when you get dinner and a show when the show is a car accident. I’ve been in fender benders but I’ve never seen one happen in front of me. John and I were talking about how changes to the immigration process had made things more complicated at his work. I see a white SUV, a Ford Explorer I believe, turning onto West 6th from Blanco. The Explorer slowly accelerated when the sedan came from behind at a higher speed and rear-ended the Explorer. The whole block could hear the windshield glass shatter and the front of the sedan smash into the back of the SUV. The SUV had some minor scratches. The wait staff and restaurant-goers rushed to the scene to make sure everyone was fine and information was exchanged. Fortunately, all parties involved did not get hurt.

6. Never ask to take only the butter to-go. Okay, this didn’t happen but there was a 95% chance it was going to happen. The butter that came with Clark’s bread was the best butter you can get at any restaurant. It was light and fluffy. It had the perfect balance of saltiness. You couldn’t stop eating it! John even had it as a dip for his french fries. He loved it so much that he wanted to take one to-go! The only thing stopping him was the fact he finished the butter (you can find it on the picture of the lobster roll).

It was the most fun nights I had in a long time. Sure, I didn’t act on my best behavior, but I didn’t care. The food was great, the weather was not too hot and I had great company. Who could ask for more? Definitely want to get into the habit of treating myself to the above-average budget experience. John, where do you want to go next? xD

I’ll give Clark’s an 9/10.

I’ll give Sweetish Hill 10/10. That bread was totally worth it.

Clark’s Oyster Bar is located at 1200 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703.

Sweetish Hill Bakery is located at 1120 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703.

 

 

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