Lake Eats Revisited

We take a trip down Ranch Road 620 for new bites on the scene

Driving the length of Ranch Road 620 recently, I was amazed by the development explosion since our last big feature on lake-area eateries five summers ago (see "Water Tables," July 2, 2004). Many of our old favorites remain, some with new enhancements, such as more cascading decks below the venerable Oasis, the beautifully landscaped full-service party pavilion behind the Hill Country Pasta House, and a busy Hey Cupcake! trailer in the parking lot between the Boat House Grill and Smoky J's Bar-B-Q. Lake-area demographics now support more chain restaurants, a few national retailers, and more than one Pan-Asian sushi bar. Four new places really captured our interest on this most recent visit, and we consider all of them worth a return trip.

Java Dive Cafe

1607 RR 620 N., 266-5885 www.javadivecafe.com

Owner Ronnie Lieberman started with a small coffee shop four years ago, slowly adding pastries and savory foods to his menu. Customer response was so positive that the original Java Dive outgrew its little place and now resides in a spacious corner of the attractive Oak Grove Plaza. In addition to excellent coffee roasted on-site, Lieberman's eclectic menu also features breakfast, soups, salads, wraps, panini, pastries, and smoothies made with organic and gluten-free ingredients whenever possible. Health-conscious lake-dwellers are certainly taking notice.

Honey Bee Ham & Deli

1700 RR 620 N., 266-7426 www.honeybeehamlakeway.com

Honey Bee franchise founders Gayle and Neil Laminack retired to the lake area a few years ago and opened an expanded version of one of their stores in the neighborhood. The deli/store offers gourmet spiral-cut ham; roasted, smoked, and fried turkeys; barbecue with traditional sides; deli meats and sandwiches; daily, hot blue-plate specials; and party trays. The friendly spot provides both eat-in and takeout service and will add beer and wine to the menu later this summer. We're also told that it does huge holiday business in hams and turkeys.

Rodolfo and Jessica Buonocore, owners of Ate.Cafe
Rodolfo and Jessica Buonocore, owners of Ate.Cafe (Photo by John Anderson)

Ate.Cafe

2127 Lohmans Crossing, 263-4933 www.atefoods.com

I was a big fan of Jessica and Rodolfo Buono­core's the Daily, a sandwich-delivery business, a few years back, so discovering their cheery cafe in the lake area was a genuine treat. The new eatery is a recent outgrowth of their popular weekly dinner-delivery service. The cafe now offers breakfast and weekday lunches, and long-range plans include the addition of Spanish tapas in the evenings, complemented by beer and wine. The food we sampled here – sandwiches, salads, sweets, and fresh lemonade – was by far the best we had on this lake visit, and we look forward to returning.

Mizu Prime Steak and Sushi

2422 RR 620 S., 263-2801

Former Finn & Porter chef Chris Bauer expects this new venture to debut in late July. The expanded Mizu will feature a New American menu enhanced with some Asian-inspired dishes, five prime steaks, sushi, an à la carte weekend brunch, and a full bar with late-night food and hours. Bauer's ambitious plans also call for an organic herb and vegetable garden complete with sugar cane and exotic fruit trees. Check out prospective menu items and the progress of the new restaurant at www.facebook.com/pages/Austin-TX/Mizu-Prime-Steak-and-Sushi/75853587777.

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