Karen’s Pick: Clark’s Oyster Bar
Clark’s Oyster Bar
THIS CLARKSVILLE GEM LURES DINERS WITH ITS STELLAR SEAFOOD AND NAUTICAL CHIC.
by Karen O. Spezia
Photographs by Knoxy Knox
SOME REVIEWS ARE EASIER TO WRITE than others. This one’s easy. Because Clark’s Oyster Bar is so easy to love. In a nutshell, it’s always good and it always makes me happy. But if you’ve never been to Clark’s, I’ll elaborate.
If you’ve ever visited Nantucket, or the Hamptons, or the coast of Maine, Clark’s is kind of like that. Except it’s just down the street on West Sixth. It’s got that same well-honed, well-heeled casual air of privilege. An understated nautical vibe fills the snug cottage, which has preppy stripped awnings; a chic shotgun dining room with seafoam banquettes; a clubby marble and polished wood bar that lines the petite kitchen and raw bar; and a breezy, tree-shaded deck that overlooks a parking lot—not the Atlantic Ocean—but you’ll soon forget that as you ease into your lovely meal.
Although you can grab a quick bite at the bar, Clark’s really shines when you linger. Settle in with one of its on-point cocktails, such as a minty mojito or classic martini, while you ponder the menu. Your skillful server will bring you a complimentary plate of homemade sourdough, top-quality butter, flaky sea salt, and crisp radishes, transporting you to the coast of France. Now sip, nibble, and relax.
When you’re ready, sample an assortment of Clark’s fantastically fresh East and West Coast oysters. And order up a glass of crisp Muscadet wine or a flute of champagne, two natural partners of the oyster. With your appetite piqued, move on to one of Clark’s tasty starters, such as the outstanding red snapper ceviche or the traditional steak tartare (it ain’t all seafood here). Of course, there are also lovely salads and New England clam chowder.
If you’ve ever visited Nantucket, or the Hamptons, or the coast of Maine, Clark’s is kind of like that.
Hungry for an entrée? Mussels and clams steamed in an aromatic white wine broth is an overflowing bowl of goodness. Be sure to get extra sourdough for sopping. There’s exotic Cioppino stew and a sophisticated riff on Shrimp Toast, plus the obligatory yet outstanding lobster rolls and crab cakes. I’m frequently lured by the daily catch, seasonal offerings such as the grouper, scallops, mahi, or branzino, which are simply prepared to allow the sweet flavors of the fresh fish to shine through. In the mood for meat? Clark’s juicy, pan-roasted Black Angus hamburger is one of the best in town, perfectly proportioned and served with shoestring fries or tangy cole slaw. To end your blissful meal, there’s key lime tart, vanilla bean cheesecake, and chocolate pot de crème, to name a few.
Clark’s quality and success comes as no surprise; it’s owned and operated by chefs Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman, who also helm top Austin restaurants such as Perla’s, Jeffrey’s, Elizabeth Street Café, and Lamberts. After opening its doors five years ago, Clark’s was an instant hit with its Clarksville neighbors and other Austin locals, who quickly recognized a gem. It’s the kind of place where you always leave feeling better than when you arrived. And unfortunately, you do eventually have to leave. But didn’t you have a lovely time?