Classic Clarksville: An Austin Treasure Hidden in Plain SightBy Robert Schrader
Savor the briny goodness of Austin’s best oysters at Clark’s. (Photo: Casey Dunn)
Colloquially, Austin’s center of gravity is moving east, which also has practical implications. Nightlife in the city, for example, has gradually moved from so-called “Dirty Sixth,” inside the bounds of downtown-proper, to grungy and hipster-filled East Sixth Street.
While central Austin has suffered somewhat from the changing dynamic in the Texas capital, West Austin remains unfazed — it’s never been trendy, after all, but has always been cool. In particular, the Clarksville neighborhood provides an opportunity for urban exploration that is at once illuminating and, somehow, independent of any particular time period.
Wet Your Whistle at Clark’s Oyster Bar
The moment you step onto the streets of Clarksville, you’ll realize that Clark’s is far from the only place to dine here. On the other hand, while Clark’s sits just down Sixth Street from downtown and echoes the name of the district it sits in, there are many more reasons it’s become one of Austin’s most iconic spots.
For one, Clark’s is one of the best spots in Austin for oysters, offering not only the Gulf Coast oysters common to bars and restaurants throughout the city, but also East and West Coast oysters from locales as distant as Prince Edward Island.
In addition, while image isn’t everything, the design scheme of Clark’s, which juxtaposes navy-and-white pinstripes with colors like teal and mustard, exemplifies Austin’s boldness and the importance of branding to the city’s advancement.
Explore Two Different Versions of Austin’s Indoor Art
If there’s one establishment in Clarksville that embodies the district’s timelessness, it’s Artworks. Beyond the fact that the Artworks gallery has been in business since Reagan took the oath of office a second time, it offers such a wide array of visual art — paintings, sculptures and vintage weaponry, oh my! — that you’ll have a difficult time pinning it down to any particular era, modern or otherwise.
Lytle Pressley Contemporary, on the other hand, is not only a gallery of paintings, but a contemporary furniture collection. To be sure, while the work on offer at Lytle Pressley ranges from timeless sitting-room staples to ultramodern accent pieces, the theme here is feeling at home, even if you don’t happen to live in Austin.
(Fair warning: A day spent in Clarksville may very well compel you to move here.)
And Explore Its Outdoor Art, Too
These days, even the most purpose-painted, elegant graffiti seems commonplace, whether you’re in the grungiest part of New Orleans or the poshest part of New York City. In Austin, these divergent lobes of street art meet, with a public park that allows you — quite literally — to grab your own brush and join the chorus of colors.
Actually, it’s a spray can. Indeed, when you arrive at Graffiti Park, which sits atop Castle Hill near the intersection of Lamar Blvd and 12th Street, you shouldn’t get too distracted by the panoramic, westward-facing shots of downtown Austin.
The people who welcome you to the park, some of them artists and others simply spray-paint sellers, will encourage you to contribute to the colorful dialogue that professionals and amateurs alike have been adding to these concrete walls since 2011.
TIP: It’s common knowledge among Austinites that the Graffiti Park at Castle Hill is living on borrowed time, given the high value of the land it sits on. At the same time, the park has far outlived its initial prognosis, so while you should get here as soon as humanly possible, you needn’t panic once you arrive.