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Cool Drinks On A Hot Day, Waterside!

by Marshall Wright

TOP PICK: Soleil

Few things are as rewarding after a long day on the job than a cool place to hang out and have a few drinks with friends. Toss in million – dollar views of the lake and you’ve got a winner every night of the week. So, as prime happy hour season heats up, I stopped by one of Austin’s newest and nicest lakeside watering holes that is sure to become a go-to happy hour spot.

Soleil, located in the lakeside Oasis, Texas village at 6550 Comanche Trail is the new Robert Del Grande Italian – Mediterranean inspired seafood restaurant overlooking Lake Travis. The elegant dining room is set in soothing water-inspired tones with 180-degree views looking out onto Lake Travis that feels perfect for date night or a more refined happy hour setting. The killer view is from the spacious patio that wraps around three sides of the dining room and adjacent Azure Raw Bar.

Taking our seats on the outside patio, we were immediately rewarded with streaks of orange, blue and red washing across the partly cloudy blue sky – that spectacular sunset the Oasis is known for as we looked out toward Mansfield Dam and Hudson Bend. Immediately, it felt like the perfect spot to unwind after a busy day at work.
The happy hour menu is divided into three sections – $3, $5 and $7 options – and is available weekdays from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

The menu kicks off with a selection of three daily handcrafted draft beer choices from upstairs neighbor Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que. Each pint is priced at $3 and with selections ranging from the Agave Wheat, Hill Country Organic Amber, Bottle Rocket Lager, Ax Handle Pale Ale and Hop Zombie IPA, even the pickiest beer drinker will find something they like.

Starting at $5/glass, the happy hour menu boasts a selection of wines by the glass, from Pinot Grigio to Cabernet Sauvignon, along with your choice of three select liquors – Tito’s Vodka, Jim Beam Whiskey and Captain Morgan’s Rum – should you need something a little stronger to kick start your favorite cocktail.

The $7 portion of the happy hour menu stays nicely within the Italian – Mediterranean theme of the restaurant with appetizer choices like baba ghanoush, roasted pepper hummus, bruschetta, spicy meatballs, calamari and a cheese plate.

After reading through the menu, we started our visit off with a round of cocktails – a Mariner, Spicy Peach Basil Mojito and Blackberry Mojito.

By far, the clear winner at our table was the Mariner (see recipe at atxman.com). Whereas, with a traditional margarita, the lead liquor is tequila, the Mariner flips tradition on its head for a modern spin with Grand Marnier stepping out in front. The juxtaposition of components made for a more full-bodied and sweeter take on our beloved marg and we quickly ordered another one.

For those who don’t like margaritas, but don’t want to be odd man out when the table gets a round, this will be your way to save face (and probably have the best drink on the table).
Mojitos continue to be all the rage, especially this time of year, and we particularly liked the Peach Basil Mojito. Slivers of Fresno peppers added a nice touch of heat that played well against the sweetness of the peach syrup and the herbal notes of basil and mint. If you prefer a sweet drink, the Blackberry Mojito has you covered.

I’m a big fan of fried calamari, despite its ubiquitous presence on Austin menus and will order it more often. Soleil’s version was great. The calamari steaks are marinated overnight in a buttermilk bath and then cut thick, battered and gently fried resulting in melt – in – your – mouth tenderness. Creamy garlic aioli and housemade marinara served alongside for dipping complemented the calamari nicely but with just a fresh squeeze of lemon to brighten it up, the condiments weren’t necessary. A deal for seven bucks.

Balance when ordering is always a good thing, so finding the right combination of flavors that touch on all the elements of taste – spicy, sweet, sour, salty and umami is important. Especially when enjoying a well – crafted cocktail, you have to be careful not to overpower the food with competing flavors. Something spicy always goes well with a good drink and the spicy meatballs hit the spot perfectly.

A mixture of ground pork and beef blended with herbs and red pepper flakes then braised in housemade marinara, the meatballs are finished off with a bubbling blanket of gooey mozzarella cheese. A first cut through the mozzarella split the meatball in half and let the marinara penetrate into the center for the perfect bite. Just as we contemplated another bite, our mouth exploded. With a rush and a kick, our forks went back to the plate for another bite. Then another until we threw in the towel, mouths tingling and reaching for our drinks. Again, seven bucks. Deal.

Overall, the happy hour menu offers a little something for everyone with a value that underlies the upscale casual elegance of the restaurant. We look forward to our next visit.

Other Waterside Hot Spots

Roaring Fork (Quarry)

10850 Stonelake Blvd.
Austin, TX 78759
512.342.2700
Lunch served daily at 11am
Dinner served daily at 5pm
Brunch served Sat and Sun, 11a.m.-4p.m.
Hours:
Mon-Thu, Sun
11a.m.-10p.m.
Fri-Sat 11a.m.-11pm

Hula Hut

3825 Lake Austin Blvd.
Austin, TX 78703
512.476.4852
Hours:
Open Mon-Thu
Sun 11a.m.-10p.m.
Fri-Sat 11a.m.-11p.m.

Ski Shores Café

2905 Pearce Road
Austin, TX 78730-4310
512.394.7511
Hours:
Open Mon-Wed 11a.m.-9p.m.
Thu 11a.m.-10p.m.
Fri 11a.m.-11p.m.
Sat 8a.m.-11p.m.
Sun 8a.m.-9p.m.

 

“x” Factor: Online Drink Recipes

Mariner

½ oz Hornitos
1 ½ oz Grand Marnier
½ oz Agave Nectar
½ oz lime
Salt rim

Fill a 12.5 oz Hi-Ball with ice, transfer the ice into a metal shaker
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice
Shake 8 – 10 times Only and pour into Hi-Ball glass
Garnish with lime wedge

Spicy Peach Basil Mojito

¾ oz Peach Monin
3/8 oz Simple Syrup
1 ½ oz Bacardi
¾ oz lime juice
4 basil leaves muddled
2 slices Fresno peppers muddled
3 peach slices muddled

Fill a 12.5 oz Hi-Ball with ice, transfer the ice into a metal shaker
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice
Shake 8 – 10 times Only and pour into Hi-Ball glass
Top with splash of Sprite
Garnish with a mint sprig

Blackberry Mojito

1.25 oz Bacardi Silver
.75 oz Monin Blackberry Syrup
.75 oz Simple Syrup
.75 oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
4 frozen Blackberries (Average Size)
10 Mint Leaves torn

Fill a 12.5 oz Hi-Ball with ice, transfer the ice into a metal shaker
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice
Shake 8 – 10 times Only and pour into Hi-Ball glass
Garnish with a mint sprig

 

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