As a member of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, I am joining a team of fellow foodies in creating a City Wide Dining Guide for 2013 detailing the best of the best Austin has to offer. This post is all about the best places for seafood with favorites discovered through personal research (eating). Please let me know what places I left off as this list will continue to evolve and grow as I check out more spots. After some back and forth, I made the executive decision to leave out sushi places. However, for my money, I am going to Uchi, Uchiko or Kome.
Quality Seafood – Value, consistency, and, well, quality, are just a few reasons Quality Seafood is arguably the best seafood restaurant in Austin. Quality Seafood, Austin’s premier seafood market and restaurant, dates back to 1938 and seems only getting better with age. While the decades have marked changes in ownership and location, the heart and soul of Quality Seafood Market has remained unaffected, if not stronger than ever. Despite its consistently high ratings, it is easy to underestimate Quality Seafood after pulling into the parking lot and walking inside. This is a seafood market, after all, complete with bright florescent lights and linoleum floors. Most tables are counter service with the exception of bar seating. However, this laidback atmosphere is all part of the restaurant’s uniqueness.
There are a good number of reasons for Quality Seafood Market storied longevity. Casual in feel and price, the restaurant’s food is on par with fancier establishments, many whom source from the business’ wholesale arm. Take, for example, an order of sea scallops wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon. The scallops are flash fried to perfection, resulting in a finished product that has a crisp caramelized crust outside yet remains tender and juicy on the inside. Other menu specialties include oysters on the half shell, fried seafood baskets, chowders and gumbo, and fish plates. Of course, no review of Quality Seafood is complete without mentioning the special that hooked us in the first place: Taco Tuesdays. For $2 every Tuesday evening, customers get a choice of shrimp, mahi mahi, or catfish served blackened, grilled or fried and topped with one of Quality Seafood’s delicious housemade sauces. A steal at $2, these tacos, stuffed with fresh seafood, are a bargain any day of the week at $4.39 a taco.
Quality Seafood. 5621 Airport Blvd. Austin, TX. 512.454.5827. http://www.qualityseafoodmarket.com/
Shoal Creek Saloon – Shoal Creek Saloon is Austin’s answer to Louisiana-style dining. Long time favorite Shoal Creek is well known for its Cajun infused menu, creekside outdoor seating, and lively crowd, especially when LSU or the Saints are playing. The kitchen is famous for fried catfish, but the po boys, peel and eat shrimp and nachos are also solid choices. If too many hurricanes and hand grenades have you singing the blues, there is nothing that will cure all that ails you like a bowl of garlic soup. Naturally, Shoal Creek is THE place to go for a spicy pile of mudbugs during crawfish season. Shoal Creek Saloon is one of those tried and true Austin places that is now well on its way to becoming an institution.
Shoal Creek Saloon. 909 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78703. 512.474.0805. http://www.shoalcreeksaloon.com/
Perla’s –South Congress seafood mecca Perla’s is known for it’s impressive selection of fresh, flavorful seafood. Sitting on Perla’s patio it’s easy to be transported instantly to the somewhere along the Southeastern coastline, especially when glancing over the menu filled with fresh fish, lobster rolls, and impressive selection of oysters. Guests are recommended to start with an order of oysters served with a trio of traditional accompaniments or one of several standout appetizers such as the crab Louie. Perla’s understands the value of simplicity, especially when dealing with high quality fresh ingredients. This characteristic is what makes one of the simply grilled fish options a perfect entrée selection. For a heartier dish, try the bouillabaisse featuring an assortment of fish, clams, mussels and shrimp served swimming in a broth that is rich in saffron and a little spice that (almost) outshines the protein. Whatever you do, make sure to leave room for dessert, as the salted caramel pot de crème is heavenly.
Perla’s Oyster Bar and Seafood.1400 South Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704-2487. (512) 291-7300. www.perlasaustin.com.
Clark’s –The list’s new kid on the block, Clark’s, is ‘the little brother’ restaurant to the South Congress seafood eatery Perla’s. Although its entrée offerings and interior design reflect a smaller scale version of big brother, Clark’s impressive selection of caviar and oysters, coupled with a serious cocktail program, make it shine all on its own. While many menu items are similar or identical to Perla’s, Clark’s has a few variations, such as the exceptional sashimi plate, that are must orders. Don’t let its neighborhood charm fool you, however, as its easy to drop a pretty penny while dining at Clark’s. To sample Clark’s on a slightly more budget friendly level, order a hearty bowl of New England clam chowder.
Clark’s is located at 1200 West 6th Street Austin, Texas 78703.
Parkside – Since its inception, parkside has been a bit of a game changer in the downtown fine dining scene. Housed in a historic space sandwiched in between shot-friendly college bars, parkside proved ‘dirty sixth’ a place worth visiting for other reasons beyond reliving the glory days on a few football game weekends out of the year. Whereas most of the upscale spots downtown follow a standard corporate steakhouse model, parkside broke the mold by consistently plating dishes with an inventive, unique and youthful approach. In addition to serving delicious seasonally inspired dishes, parkside also has a raw bar boasting some of the best ceviche in town. While there are several different types on the menu, parkside’s original ceviche, featuring several kinds of fish blended in a citrusy sauce, is hard to beat.
Parkside. 301 East 6th Street, Austin TX 78701. 512.474.9898. http://www.parkside-austin.com/
Hillside Farmacy – Hillside Farmacy, which opened last spring, is a charming mid-priced eatery and grocery located in East Austin headed by Homegrown Revival and former East Side Showroom Chef Sonya Cote. In developing Hillside Farmacy’s menu, Cote wanted to share a piece of her own history and inspiration with guests. Each item has its own story to tell, including oysters, which are inspired by Chef Cote’s childhood on the Carolina coast. Hillside offers a nightly selection of East and West coast oysters, peel and eat gulf shrimp, and a gulf fish selection. Best of all, oysters are also featured on Hillside Farmacy’s daily happy hour from 4-6pm, meaning its also one of the more affordable places to throwback a dozen as well.
Eddie V’s – Among its competitors, Eddie V’s is hands down the best of the high-end steak/seafood restaurants downtown. One very delicious reason this can be stated with unabashed certainty is Eddie V’s selection of seafood dishes such as parmesan crusted sole topped with heirloom tomatoes. In contrast to similar restaurants, Eddie V’s dishes are overall more inventive and consistently worth the high dollar price tag.
Eddie V’s Edgewater Grill. 301 E. 5th Street, Austin TX – (512) 472-1860. http://www.eddiev.com/