By Heather Trese
Special to the Times
I've had my eye on Grind House Bar & Grill since it opened more than a year ago. Every time I went grocery shopping, the bright Union Jack sign called to me from across the parking lot, begging me to leave my milk to spoil in the trunk while I stopped in for a pint or two. Finally I made a special trip to the Bayshore Shopping Plaza on McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater just to give the pub a try.
The first thing I noticed was just how unremarkable the bar is — but in a good way. Although Grind House markets itself as an English-style pub, the walls are noticeably bare of memorabilia. There are no fake red phone booths or photos of the queen, just a small stack of Union Jack newspapers near the front of the bar and a nice array of English fare to choose from. The bar lets the beer, the food, the bartenders and the atmosphere speak for itself.
I took a seat at the bar and ordered a Killian's. The friendly bartender, complete with genuine British accent, handed me one beer and one small plastic token.
"What's this for?" I asked.
"Just hand that to me when you want your second beer."
"My second beer?"
She pointed to a sign: "2-4-1 draught beer, all day, every day."
"Every day?" I asked, shocked. "Every beer?"
"Yup. Every day, every beer, except Guinness and Stella. Wells and wines are two-for-one, too."
"Seriously?" I was impressed. There are some great deals in Clearwater — when you're trying to compete with St. Petersburg, Channelside and Ybor, there have to be — but usually they're restricted to just one night, time of day, or certain beers.
I sipped my beer and took a good look around the bar. There was a big seating area in front, and another in the back, with a huge projector screen, a pool table, a foosball table and two dartboards. By the front door, the neon lights from the jukebox cast colorful rays on a party of eight.
It was then that I noticed the party of eight was crowded around a piece of paper. Wednesdays are trivia nights. All around the crowded bar, teams were huddled, arguing quietly over the answer to the latest question. Just then, a perky voice announced, "Two minutes left! Here's the question again: Put the following books in order according to the time the events in the plot took place." She read off a list of four books, only two of which I'd read. The question was pretty hard, and the team names were funny. Even though I wasn't playing, I still found trivia night entertaining.
Grind House is a great little bar. It even has the occasional special parties for holidays. The food menu is huge, and it has some great drink specials and a pleasant atmosphere, all without gimmicks.