Food Fight on Sixth: Bratwurst VS. Oysters

Food Fight on Sixth: Bratwurst VS. Oysters

Over the past few weeks, an interesting “struggle” has been growing between Austinites on the issue of whether the Best Wurst sausage cart should have its sidewalk permit renewed to vend in front of Parkside Restauarant.  The scene is the southeast corner of East 6th Street at San Jacinto, the heart of the East 6th Historic & Entertainment District.

Best Wurst has been selling yummy treats from its cart there for 17 years and has grown quite a popular customer following.  The owner, Jon Notarthomas, is a hard-working Austin musician and entrepreneur.  He pays $450 per year for the vending permit and transacts tens of thousands of dollars in business from his cart.

Parkside is a lovely fine-cuisine restaurant that opened in the circa-1920 building where Dan McKlusky’s steakhouse previously existed.  Shawn Cirkiel, the chef, and his Austin family purchased their building, valued by TCAD at $1.6 million, and completely renovated the property when opening the restaurant a couple of years ago.

Sidewalk vending permits must be renewed every 3 years and it is now that time for Best Wurst.  Parkside is opposing the renewal.  There are many reasons involved but the basic one is simply “incompatibility”.  This restuarant is not happy with having another food vendor directly outside of its front door.  City officials are caught in the middle.

There are many opposing perspectives arising through discussions of this matter:

“Old/Iconic Austin” versus “New/Emerging Austin”.

Upscale dining versus inexpensive street food.

Property owner rights versus temporary permitted uses.

Large investments and big taxes on property+liquor+sales versus modest investments, small fees and sales tax only.

The sensibilities of Austin’s sidewalk vending permit process versus national best-practices for kiosk-style vending in public common areas.

The growing desire for East 6th to revitalize itself to make better 24/7 use of its century-old historic district presence versus maintaining its more recent four-decade reputation as “Dirty 6th” where young folks go to get shitfaced.

Phew.  That’s a lot to take in right there.

What do you think about all of this?

Loads of media coverage and other resources available if you’d like to absorb further before weighing in:  News story on the Austin American-Statesman’s Austin 360.  TV coverage on News 8, Fox News and KXAN.  Best Wurst’s website and its new Save The Wurst Facebook site with some 3,000 fans.  Parkside’s website.

About Fred Schmidt

Fred Schmidt is co-owner, with wife and business partner, Shelley Meyer, of longtime Downtown Austin retail stores Wild About Music Art & Gift Gallery (26 years) on Congress Ave, and Toy Joy (29 years) and Austin Rocks (5 years) in the 2nd Street District. Concurrently he is also Director of International Affairs at Capital Factory, Austin’s premier incubator/accelerator facility for startups, already located in the proposed new Innovation District in the northeast quadrant of Downtown. He has served as a past board member of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA), the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA), and 6ixth Street Austin. He thinks this is one of the best places in the world to live, work and play! Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the positions of any affiliated organizations.


  1. Tim Basham says

    Fred makes some valid points on the pros and cons. However, the discussions about the vandalism (which is exactly what spreading sauerkraut and ketchup on your doors and windows is) that has happened to Parkside’s property should not and cannot be blamed on the vendor. That would be like blaming the hardware store for selling spray paint to the graffiti artist who defaces a building around the corner. I doubt that Jon and his employees would ever permit such behavior. Jon’s decade-plus long relationship with Dan McKlusky’s is proof of Best Wurst’s high standards and neighborly ethics.

  2. 6ixth Street Austin is helping to mediate the situation with the city. The eventual goal is to find a new spot for Best Wurst that they are happy with and allow the sidewalk expansion for Parkside. Hopefully we will have a solution this week.

  3. This is even more difficult as I understand Parkside wants to add outside dinning. Don’t know if I would want fine dining actualy on the sidewak, but may other restaurants do this, so why not them. Ultimately this is a permitting problem. The city probably should never allow mobile vendors in front of restaurants. But what to do now? The only vialbe solution is to have Jon, better police his customers, and if he can not do that, then he needs to move. Once the city expands the sidewalk area then he can move and Parkside can have its outside dining.

    • Was it a restaurant when the food cart first got its permit there 17 years ago? Seems to me they shouldn’t have opened a restaurant behind a food cart if they are that worried. Honestly I doubt people who want parkside walk by and decide to heat hotdogs in the street.

  4. This location is unique b/c there is a bulb-out where Best Wurst can fit. This can be solved with wider sidewalks all along 6th Street. Wider sidewalks [which I understand are in the works] would open up more [complementary] locations for mobile vendors to post-up.

    As a pedestrian, I like having food carts. As a business owner, I have sympathy for Parkside in two ways: 1) As many other 6th Street buildings have become derelict, Parkside spent a lot of $$$ on their finish out and building improvements. 2) if Best Wurst’s customers are not playing nice with neighboring Parkside, then Jon needs to be more pro-active and help mitigate the negative impact on his neighbor.

  5. Angelina says

    The City needs to step up, mediate, and help this vendor secure a spot within a one block radius in front of one of the many remaining businesses “where young folks go to get shitfaced”.

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