Restaurant News & Reviews

In the Drink: Oscar's winning combination

In 2001, Bruce Drake and Brian McCarty started their small empire of upscale local dining by twinning restaurants with bars. The first of these was Malone's, a grown-up steakhouse with its own attractive bar. Oscar's, its more casual sibling next door, is Malone's mirror image: a lounge focusing on seafood, with a special emphasis on merrymaking.

And how can you not feel merry, with live piano music every evening and half-prices on everything from Malone's Wine Spectator Award-winning list — by the bottle and the glass — all the time?

During happy hour, free appetizers flow, and the place starts to fill with the upwardly mobile. Pub tables, bar stools and outdoor furniture are also available — and popular — on the patio, but my preference is for the ambience of musicians and oxygen over stacks of parked cars and their distracting fumes.

By 7 o'clock on any given evening, sushi, salads and platters of shellfish, seductively underlit with a rich blue light, begin emerging from the kitchen to accompany a glass of riesling, a bottle of summer beer or perhaps a pineapple-infused "Stoli Doli," one of the bar's signature drinks. There's lots of chatter and laughing, as befits the process of getting lightly "liquored up," but the volume and crescendo keep pace with the piano players, a more human and far better benchmark, since it's the tunes that create the environment.

The lineup of local talent is fine. Courtney Allen of (now defunct) Jazzman Café fame, does his repertoire of funky standards. Andrew Card's soft falsetto, reminiscent of Aaron Neville, sings soulfully happy/sad renditions of '70s rock; and local pop-rocker Andy Mason, who soothes you at 6 with They Can't Take That Away From Me, will later have you singing along to Piano Man. I look forward to dropping by soon to hear the other two artists, Pauly Zarb and Steve Lyons.

Finally, there is special entertainment in a glass, a fairly new signature drink that managing partner Nick Lourick alerted me to: the zingy Pixie Stick martini. This slightly fizzy cocktail, created at the sister bar in Hamburg Place, is named (for those old enough to remember) after the taste bud-popping sweet powder that came in straws. Its odd shade of olive green actually looks fashion-forward with a contrasting orange slice (in fact, that color combination was also hot around the same time), but it's the drink's amazing resemblance to the candy that inspired it that will make you gasp, laugh and coalesce the time travel that the wonderful sounds so effectively began.