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Bar review: Hula Bay Club in Tampa

Hula Bay Club is full of tasty Hawaiian treats, and we don’t mean the eye candy. Try the Kahanamoku Kick drink or the Hula Bay Burger. You won’t be disappointed.

Luis Santana/tbt*

Hula Bay Club is full of tasty Hawaiian treats, and we don’t mean the eye candy. Try the Kahanamoku Kick drink or the Hula Bay Burger. You won’t be disappointed.

For a city with ocean access and a major river running through it, Tampa has a scarcity of waterfront bars. This bothers me. There are few pleasures more enjoyable than sipping a luscious libation while watching the sun slip beneath the horizon. 
Plus, I have an affinity for fruity drinks — but only feel comfortable consuming them within a stone’s throw of a sizable body of water. 
Luckily, last Sunday, I found a place near my South Tampa residence that’s ideal for swilling a drink garnished with a lemon, lime and two cherries.
Since opening in January, Hula Bay Club has quickly established itself as an excellent, waterfront drinking destination in Tampa. I arrived there just as night fell from the sky and a pleasant breeze filled the air. The sprawling, seaside funplex features an indoor restaurant, bar, a poolside lounge and a dining deck. I chose the latter. My view included newly installed concrete boat slips and big ol’ Tampa Bay, and to my right, I could barely make out the lights of the Gandy Bridge and the vague outline of St. Petersburg. 
Hula Bay, which is owned by the same people behind the local Green Iguana chain, Buddha Lounge and The Retreat, has a Hawaiian theme driven home by an homage to Waikikian surfing and swimming legend Duke Kahanamoku. There’s a nice bio of him on the menu. And a fabulously fruity drink bears his name. 
The Kahanamoku Kick ($8) is a tidal wave of a cocktail. A mai tai slushy made with dark and light Cruzan rum, the frozen concoction comes in a giant goblet in which a starved bikini babe could easily drown. The beverage was a bit too sweet for my taste but went well with my salty Edamame appetizer and fat slab of beef.
Considering the size of Kahanamoku Kick, I decided to accompany it with something a bit heartier than baby soybeans — diet be damned. The Hula Bay Burger ($9) immediately caught my eye. I have enjoyed burgers covered in everything from deliciously stinky blue cheese to a big fat fried egg, but never a grilled pineapple. Excellent. Seriously, if you thought the tropical plant tasted good on pizza, you have to try it on a burger, especially the Hula Bay teriyaki garlic burger that also benefits from lettuce, tomato, crisp bacon slices, melted Swiss cheese and a scrumptious honey Dijon sauce. Also, the cole slaw tasted fresh and was not soggy. I hate soggy cole slaw.
Thanks to being raised by a fairly strict, finish-what-you-started-there-are-kids-starving-in-Africa father (and, to a lesser extent, mother), I’m a clean-your-plate-kind-of-guy to this day. I devoured my burger, slaw and “fried potato petals.†Sucked down every last drop of the Kahanamoku Kick. It took a bit of time, though. When my check arrived, the dining area had pretty much cleared out and I felt full enough to float across the bay. I ventured to the adjacent Duke’s Retired Surfers Bar, which is downstairs, right on the water and was still kicking around 9:30 p.m. A band prepared to resume playing and friendly faces surrounded the bar. But the big meal and massive mai tai had done me in.
Before leaving, though, I did make note of the upcoming Memorial Day Party. Starting at 11 a.m. Sunday, there will be “three parties in one location†with live music, DJ Blaze spinning poolside and DJ Jask hosting the dock party. Bathing suits are of course welcome — there’s pool — but certain attire will cause an uncomfortable scene at the door. The sign reads: “No plain white wife beaters, no basketball shorts, no jerseys. Dress code strictly enforced.†
No basketball shorts? Really? Last time I checked, aren’t they basically just swimming trunks minus the mesh lining that inevitably irritates your junk?
— What’s your favorite drinking destination? Contact Barfly columnist Wade Tatangelo at [email protected]

Tbt* is compiling a list of the best bars in Tampa Bay. What’s your favorite spot? Send your nominees to [email protected] And vote for Tampa Bay’s best bartender at

Hula Bay Club
The bar is at 5210 W Tyson Road, Tampa, in the old Rattlefish building. Hula Bay will host a Memorial Day party starting at 11 a.m. Sunday with DJs and plenty of bikinis. (813) 837-4852;

Bar review: Hula Bay Club in Tampa 05/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:15pm]
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