Clark's Oyster Bar and Sam Beam Welcome Billy Reid to the Clarksville Neighborhood

West Sixth keeps it classy with designer duds, oysters, and champagne

There's a refreshing air of gentility around West Sixth Street these days that allows for a bit of magical thinking.

Between the recently opened Clark's Oyster Bar--now serving the neighborhood freshly shucked oysters and fine, sparkling cocktails--and the grand opening of the Billy Reid store a few doors down, the feeling that a very classy holiday season is upon us hangs in the air like a twinkling promise, even if the temperatures still hover in the seventies. Then again, oysters, champagne, and fine woolen wares are evocative wintertime indulgences. I anticipate more from the holidays than canned cranberry sauce and midnight kisses.

Last Thursday offered Clarksville the grand opening soiree of the newly minted Billy Reid retail space at 1122 W. 6th St. Revelers came out from all over Austin to celebrate, and to eye the well-kept wares offered by the successful Alabama clothing designer. The Billy Reid style embodies a reverence for a genteel past: the collection is inspired by turn of the century men's workwear (sturdy leather boots and chinos, for instance), while the men's dress offerings call to mind the Southern dandy of a century ago: cleanly tailored button-downs, handmade wool suits and bow ties are a few of the offerings. For the ladies there are leather jackets, lace-up platform boots, and vests made of wild coyote and nutria fur. The care and craft involved in producing this collection is evident from collar to trowser hem. In the space, the whitewashed walls evoke a clothing goods mercantile of a bygone era, calling focus to the items hanging on racks and in dark, antique cabinets. The dressing room area features framed photographs of stately elders, portraits of smiling aunts in their salad days, and a mirrored tray holding fine whiskey and cocktail glasses waiting to be poured in celebration of getting and spending and handing down. Billy Reid also offers an array of festive Southern cookbooks for sale; no doubt a fine bow tie pairs nicely with finger foods and Christmas cookies. This is not your knock-off nylon tween shopping havoc; this is the hip haven for polite company, for folks as comfortable in a downtown music club as at a business luncheon. At the end of the night, the front doors were locked and the remaining patrons retired to a secret back room, where a woman crafted whiskey cocktails and Sam Beam (of Iron and Wine fame) serenaded the crowd in an intimate setting. Most importantly, Billy Reid knows how to make his customers feel part of an exclusive group of well-heeled enthusiasts.

If you find yourself in the market for the finer things in life, maybe you should revitalize your holiday party wardrobe at West Sixth's newest fine clothing purveyor, then make a brisk walk to Clark's Oyster Bar for an Aperol spritz and a shucker's dozen on the patio to celebrate your thoughtful purchase. The latest from the McGuire Moorman family, Clark's plays little brother to Perla's (a stalwart of South Congress) and offers equally fresh and thoughtfully prepared seafood in a more intimate setting than the latter. After my stop at the Billy Reid store opening, I found a spot at the bar with a few friends, where we helped ourselves to oysters from both coasts, an artfully displayed tray of the evening's sashimi offerings (with accompanying freshly grated wasabi, thin ribbons of daikon radish, and sweet pickled ginger), and a steaming bowl of clam chowder, well-seasoned and comforting. What's more, each meal starts off with a small plate of crusty bread, succulent French Breakfast radishes, butter and sea salt. Clark's offers the classic dishes and condiments one expects from an oyster bar while maintaining focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. I left feeling warmed, satisfied, and ready to take on the coming season.

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