It's that time of year again, when summer seems to drag on indefinitely. Merely stepping outside results in being reduced to a sticky mess. These days are made for cool confines, cold drinks and light, satisfying eats. And that's exactly what we found at Lana's Red Lion Pub recently.
It's an awesomely funky British pub on Gulf Boulevard in Indian Rocks Beach. A red English telephone booth marks the spot. Walk inside the cozy wooden confines and you're immediately transported away from the tacky condo and tourist trap scene — and the merciless heat.
My dad and I found the Red Lion Pub on a Saturday afternoon. Took a seat at the long bar in the center of the room. A smiling young woman greeted us immediately. I ordered my old standby, Jameson and "a splash of soda." She made it wonderfully strong. Pops received a perfectly poured Guinness.
I chuckled at the humorous bumper stickers that served as decorations. "Beer: Not just for breakfast," read one that made me grin. The funniest aren't fit for print in a family newspaper.
The Red Lion Pub has just about everything a working-class drinker could crave: a fine liquor selection, the fantastically affordable Yellow Tail as its house wine, and 16 beers on tap, including outstanding imports and microbrews like Chimay, Stella Artois and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
During happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m., pints of, say, Guinness drop from the already reasonable $4 to $3.50. Like to wake with a little hair of the dog? Bloody Marys are a mere $1.25 before noon.
The Red Lion Pub's menu states that it's "famous" for Fish and Chips ($9.95). I've heard that one many times before, and have frequently been disappointed. But I decided to give the "North Atlantic cod, beer battered and deep fried to perfection" a try.
"You know for a dollar more you can upgrade to grouper," said the affable young man behind the bar.
"Is it real grouper?" I asked with a smile.
"Oh, yeah, I promise," he said.
My dish proved excellent. The light beer batter accentuated, rather than masked, the grouper goodness. Washing it down with sips of Jameson hit the spot. My dad had the Empire Chicken sandwich ($7.95), another item I recommend wholeheartedly.
In between bites and gulps I surveyed the room. It's basically divided into three sections: a game area, the bar and a denlike setting with tables and several TVs, including an old-school big screen. And then there's the deck outside, which I was told gets hopping on the weekends.
I grabbed a copy of the Union Jack, "America's Only National British Newspaper," and looked at my dad.
"I could sit here all day," I said.
Alas, we had to walk back into the blazing sun and return home.
Wade Tatangelo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.