New restaurants, chefs at sea, and Lawrence Eguakun makes a comeback
The East Sixth Street Entertainment District is undergoing an interesting transformation of late. It started with the relocation of the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown to the venerable Ritz theatre back in November and recommenced after the beginning of the year with the opening of a Torchy's Tacos outlet (511 E. Sixth, 474-7000) in late January. Last week saw the launch of the newly remodeled 1886 Bakery & Cafe at the Driskill Hotel (116 Sixth), complete with new chef Scott Halverson, some brand-new menu items, and some new cocktails. We've been told to expect some updating at the Driskill Grill and in the actual hotel rooms over the coming months, as well. The biggest news in the neighborhood is the long-awaited opening of a new restaurant from popular homegrown chef Shawn Cirkiel. His new parkside (301 E. Sixth, 474-9898, www.parkside-austin.com) debuted in an historic corner building that formerly housed both Louie B's and Dan McKlusky's. An enthusiastic crowd slurped down oysters at the raw bar and feasted on steak tartar and tasty little sliders at the festive media and VIP preview party last week before the official opening on Sunday, Feb. 10. Look for parkside to serve dinner, late-night snacks, and "hair of the dog" weekend brunches for the first couple of months before adding lunch some time later in the spring... Chefs from the Culinary Academy of Austin (6020-B Dillard Circle Dr., 451-5743) are taking to the high seas! In January, chef instructor Stephen Rafferty sailed on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship out of Galveston to act as an examiner to test cruise-ship cooks and chefs for certification by the American Culinary Federation. Then chef instructor and co-owner Steve Mannion took a 10-day trip to Korea to serve as a guest instructor in the U.S. Navy's Adopt-a-Ship Program, helping Navy cooks improve their skills and menus. In March, chef instructor Tim Kartiganer will lead a group of eight students on a two-week field trip to Northern Italy, where they will visit culinary schools and various artisan food producers... Fans of the former Worldbeat Cafe on MLK in the campus area will want to put this upcoming benefit on their calendars. Proprietor Lawrence Eguakun was in the process of planning the relocation of his business to the Jones Street building at East 11th and I-35 a couple of years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now that he's waged a winning battle over the disease, Eguakun would like to pay off his debts and re-establish his business. A group of friends is throwing a benefit party to offer Eguakun financial support in this endeavor. The big party is at Aster's Ethiopian Restaurant (2804 N. I-35, 469-5966) on Monday, Feb. 18, from 6 to 10pm, and will feature Aster's delicious food, live reggae from Vida Deluxe, African drumming by Lannaya, and dance tunes from KAZI's DJ-RJ. There's no cover charge, but generous donations are enthusiastically encouraged. Contact Dipo Aliu (560-9244, email@example.com) to make reservations for the party. Folks interested in making donations directly to Eguakum can mail them to 17105 Village Glen Rd., Pflugerville, TX 78660.