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Bar Tab: Soma Creek Side

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Soma Dave Shiplett

Dave Shiplett , chef and owner of Soma Creek Side in Bradenton, stands behind the bar adorned with the hand-crafted cocktails he personally made. (STAFF PHOTOS / WADE TATANGELO)

A driving force in the Manatee County culinary scene for the past two decades, Dave Shiplett can cook. But what would one of our favorite chefs do at his Soma Creek Side restaurant with a newly acquired liquor license? We were excited to find out.

Soma EXT 1

Soma Creek Side is at 1401 Manatee Avenue West in downtown Bradenton.

We pulled into the free parking garage conveniently adjacent to Soma, which occupies part of the first floor of the towering Bradenton Financial Center building, around 5:45 p.m. Saturday. Our good friends and fellow Shiplett admirers Kellie and Rick had already secured us stools at the bar found inside the entrance, around the corner from the intimate dining room. A mélange of glass, metal and wood beneath a high ceiling and awash in natural light, the cozy bar with about a half-dozen stools is at once relaxing and chic, the ideal spot to imbibe, nosh and guffaw your way through an evening of lively conversation.

Soma’s nascent cocktail menu featured six drinks and each one appeared promising. I ordered the Summertime Old Fashion ($8). Rather than the traditional choice of rye whiskey, Shiplett opts for a local spirit, Winter Park Distilling Company’s Bear Gulley Classic, a hand-crafted, 80-proof corn whisky. Fresh peach and rosemary were muddled and then given a kick with chili simple syrup. The results were outstanding and I sipped on the potent potable for about an hour.

Summertime Old Fashioned  at Soma

Summertime Old Fashioned

Meanwhile, my amazing wife Kristin enjoyed her Old School Vodka Gimlet ($9). Once again, Shiplett switched things up by using California-made DSP CA 162 "Straight" Vodka, which is an 80 proof beverage blended with vodka distilled from premium wine grapes. It paired nicely with the fresh key lime juice, zest and cucumber.

Kellie is an exceptional raconteur and after she had us all cracking up for about 30 minutes we were ready to do some eating. Shiplett has impressed me with his blue crab cakes for years and Saturday’s $12 dish of two blue crab cakes seared, flat top style, with Sicilian lemon salata and basil aioli, was perhaps his best blue crab creation yet. Kristin and I also happily shared the grilled steak satay with buffalo sauce, chunks of blue cheese and topped with Shiplett’s irresistible onion rings ($10). The super fresh scallop ceviche ($12)— deftly seasoned with lime, mint, cilantro, diced

Scallop Ceviche

Scallop Ceviche

tomato, chili and avocado — rounded out our winning roster of appetizers.

Shiplett’s desserts, most served as $5 shots, are decadent delights but we passed to make room for a couple more hand-crafted cocktails. I had the Gin Basil Ginger Smash ($8) made with Russell Henry Gin, lemon juice, ginger, simple syrup and basil. Kristin went with the Green Teen Lemongrass Mojito featuring Winter Park Distilling Company’s Dog Island Clear Rum along with the requisite club soda and mint. Both were exceptional.

After years of raising dining expectation in his native Bradenton, Shiplett is spearheading a movement to bring cocktail culture to the Friendly City. It thrives in the downtowns

Gin Basil Ginger Smash at Soma

Gin Basil Ginger Smash

of Sarasota and St. Petersburg and the various entertainment districts of Tampa. Let’s see if in the near future it doesn’t start booming in downtown Bradenton, just as the craft beer movement has.

For now, I’m all about returning to Soma for one of those innovative Old Fashions. In fact, I think it will be my lead beverage Friday when we return for the restaurant’s fireworks viewing party that for $30 per person includes dinner and a drink of your choice. We plan on staying at Soma for the duration of the 6-10:30 p.m. bash and have already arranged transportation, which means I will also be getting around to the Manatee Avenue Manhattan, SoCal Tequila Sunrise and whatever else Shiplett might be creating especially for the event.

Soma Creek Side
1401 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton; 567-4001; somacreekside.com

Soma Creek Side
1401 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton; 567-4001; somacreekside.com

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013
WADE TATANGELOis the editor of TICKET + and a contributor at TicketSarasota.com. He has been an entertainment editor, reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013 and writes the weekly Bar Tab column. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: July 2, 2014
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