It’s hot, folks. Most evenings with temperatures still in the mid-90s, the last thing anyone wants to do is stand in the kitchen cooking for an hour.
Thankfully, new kid in town, Solé, is ushering in a welcome change to the otherwise limited Monday night dining landscape. I grabbed a friend and headed downtown to 1033 Broad Street.
Solé is owned by Jay Klugo, an experienced restaurateur from Clemson, South Carolina, and has revitalized a large section of the 10th block, built in the late 1800s, that was previously home to loans and insurance offices as well as a vacant lot. After extensive renovations to the interior, and alterations to the structure to incorporate a large patio and two dining areas, Solé opened July 1 promising tapas, sushi, contemporary and casual dining, and a wine bar.
Solé opens at 5 p.m. but when I arrived for the all-you-can-eat sushi special at 5:10, many of the restaurant’s tables were already occupied. I was greeted by a very friendly lady and shown immediately to the spacious dining room adjacent to the outside patio. Immediately I could tell I was about to enjoy myself. High ceilings, contemporary wall art that pops against a neutral color palette, beautifully stained concrete floors, exposed brick façade on one wall, and all of it bathed in natural light pouring through the many windows. To top it off, G. Love and Special Sauce came on as I sat down at one of the dark wooden tables featuring soft, comfortable high-backed leather booths — you really don’t get much funkier than that.
Service is a key part of the dining experience, and it can make or break a restaurant. Servers are supposed to be a conduit, but they should not be ever-present, nor should they be completely absent. It’s a balancing act and one that I appreciate can be super challenging, particularly when confronted by a demanding or hard-to-please customer. At Solé, I had a truly wonderful server who really deserved a larger tip than I could afford. She made eye contact, spoke clearly, smiled often and did exactly what she said she would do when she said she would do it. And she didn’t hover, mumble or get flustered — a pet peeve of mine that will turn me from a relaxed diner into a raging monster itching to leave and never return. And although I didn’t deal with more than a couple of the staff members, they all seemed more than competent and happy to be there. The manager swung by a couple of time to check on us, too. That speaks volumes.
The all-you-can-eat deal runs every Monday. As it was explained to me, each diner who pays $13.99 can order up to two rolls at a time from the Maki Sushi section of Solé’s ample menu, and there is absolutely no limit on how many times you order. The only restricted item is the shrimp tempura.
The Maki Sushi selection runs the gamut of popular sushi; from the well-known Philadelphia and California rolls, to Solé’s own in-house creations. I ordered the Augusta roll containing crab, shrimp and avocado, and the Grove, a staff favorite featuring eel, crab, cream cheese, avocado and sauces.
Good sushi takes a minute and I was more than prepared to wait the 20 minutes it took for the food to arrive. I used the time to peruse the rest of the menu, which struck me as well-balanced and thoroughly appealing. The menu is divided into sections: salads, burgers, grill, tapas and Maki sushi rolls and specialty sushi rolls. Each offered variety in terms of ingredients and dishes, as well as price.
And though it’s not cheap, it’s not expensive either. A salad might run you $10.99-$14.99, but you’re getting a full meal. Same with the burgers and grill items. Nobody could possibly leave hungry. Sushi rolls also vary in price from $4.99 to $8.99 — again, very reasonable.
The tapas items looked interesting. Never have I considered mozzarella jalapeno grit fritters or fried martini olives that have been soaked in vodka, but I seriously did that night. My dinner companion ordered the chicken finger basket from the grill section, which was a huge plate full of some of the best looking chicken fingers I’ve ever seen — not to mention a generous portion of really delicious fries. At $9.99, it’s perfect for diners with kids.
And yes, Solé is family-friendly. Tables seating for anywhere from two to eight people is dotted throughout the two dining areas, and there is also seating at the bar, which itself runs the length of one of the rooms. As the temperature cooled, the outdoor patio area also began to fill up with people eating and drinking — and dining al fresco will be fabulous during our cooler months. The patio also offers ample seating, some cornhole boards, umbrella-covered tables and a lovely view of Broad Street.
Our food arrived simply but beautifully arranged on a single plate with dipping dishes and chopsticks — though forks and knives are also provided. I gave some consideration to choosing one of the many adult beverages on offer, but decided to wait until I didn’t have to go into work the next day. That said, the selection is impressive — Solé offers a range of wines, beers, traditional and contemporary cocktails and mixed drinks.
Fresh ingredients, perfect sticky rice and a nice kick from Sriracha-based sauces made the Grove an instant favorite of mine. I loved the textures and the presentation — it delivered mouthful after mouthful of complex but refreshing flavors, and it took a good deal of restraint to eat it slowly. The Augusta roll was likewise delicious, although very similar in taste to the generally popular California and the Maine rolls. Zero complaints.
As we closed in on the final bites, we ordered the Yellowtail Crunch (yellowtail, cucumber, red pepper and Panko crunch) and the Futo Maki (shrimp, crab, salmon, avocado, cucumbers and dynamite sauce). Again we waited maybe 15 minutes for these to arrive and again they came out looking spectacular. Of the two though I preferred the Futo Maki, which was huge but cut into manageable discs, simply because I have a broken tooth that didn’t like the crunch on the Yellowtail Crunch roll. The Yellowtail roll did yield some bright and refreshing tones due to the red pepper and cucumber combination. Really nice touch.
Solé has received rave reviews (“awesome sushi,” “great service,” “amazing tapas”…) on Facebook and Twitter — the only places they advertise their specials — and they are entirely justified. As the evening progressed, we didn’t feel rushed to leave, but instead welcome to stay for as long as we wanted.
Overall, I’m thrilled Augusta has a quality restaurant like Solé that offers wonderful food at an affordable price and on a Monday. In my opinion, it effortlessly joins the ranks of numerous high-quality restaurants now making a home for themselves downtown; a change that was badly needed and clearly meets a demand. By the time we rolled out, two hours after we first arrived, the place was heaving, from the patio to the bar.
Chin, chin, Augusta! We’ve finally arrived.
Solé is located at 1033 Broad Street in downtown Augusta. Solé’s kitchen is open Monday-Saturday from 5-10 p.m. The sushi bar is open until midnight on Tuesday and Wednesday, and until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The drinks bar is open until 2 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/SoleAugusta, or on Twitter at twitter.com/Sole_Augusta.