For a city with bay 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. I arrived there just as night fell and a pleasant breeze filled the air. The sprawling, bayside 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. 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 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.
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. First time I've ever had a burger topped with grilled pineapple. Excellent. Seriously, if you thought the tropical fruit tasted good on pizza, you have to try it on a burger.
I devoured my burger, crisp coleslaw and "fried potato petals" and sucked down every 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 Surfer's Island Bar, which is downstairs, right on the water and was still kicking at 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 a 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?
What's your favorite drinking destination? Contact Barfly columnist Wade Tatangelo at wtatangelo@ hotmail.com.