Ybor City is a crazy place. One stroll down Seventh Avenue after 10 p.m. will prove that.
For years, I have looked for a friendly neighborhood bar to have a few cheap drinks before or after a wild night in the Cigar City. I needed somewhere to escape the craziness but still have easy access should I decide to head back into the fray. But no place had just the right size or atmosphere.
Until I discovered Lower Red Lounge.
The bar, which opened in May, is on 16th Avenue across from the main Centro Ybor area. It's not even half a block from the main drag, yet it feels a world away.
The lounge is small, just a single row of stools lined along a bar, with four tables a few feet away. Mirrors on both walls make the room feel bigger, but the intimacy of the place is comforting in a town where most people go to lose themselves.
Lower Red lives up to its name in the red brick walls and the kitschy crimson lamps strung with feathers that dangle from the ceiling. The patrons are friendly, with a good mix of ages and genders. When I quickly finished my $2 shot and mini beer — what Lower Red seems to be known for — and went up for my second drink, I got a friendly ribbing from one of the gents at the bar. This might not be the place to meet sexy singles, but feel free to bring a friend, a book, or a penchant for conversation and you'll certainly be welcome.
Another cool aspect of Lower Red Lounge is the few hookah pipes available to smoke. Choose from a variety of tobacco flavors, for $10 a bowl. You can also play board games or watch TV on two big screens.
If you're looking for the kind of booty-shaking, beer-pounding, cage-dancing experience that only a place like Ybor can provide, then you probably want to take a pass on this little bar. But if you, like me, have been searching for a respite from the overwhelming brouhaha that is Seventh Avenue, this neighborhood bar is certainly worth a visit.