Someone recently asked me a toughie: If I lived in St. Pete — instead of South Tampa — what would my go-to bar be? Where would I decompress on a daily basis once 5 p.m. hit, the hour when my drinking typically commences?
Until a recent visit to Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen on Central Ave., which opened about six months ago, it would have been a difficult call.
There are many 'Burg bars I like. I love Chappy's. Yeah, we only just met. But we are meant for each other — like orange juice and vodka, rum and coke, gin and vermouth. It's in the cards, written in the stars, I can just tell.
Last Friday around 5:30 p.m., I ducked into Chappy's, took a seat at the handsome marble bar, spotted an artfully taken picture of iconic Crescent City jazz venue Preservation Hall on the wall, heard blues god Howlin' Wolf roaring through his definitive version of Back Door Man on the house speakers, noticed a wonderful whiskey selection and saw Louisiana-brewed Abita Amber on draft.
Hot damn, I thought. This is my kind of place.
Outside Tampa Bay, my favorite metropolis in the country — maybe the world, but I've yet to visit Amsterdam — is New Orleans. Everything from the Big Easy's laid-back 'tude to its hodgepodge culture to the Euro-swamp cuisine to the gritty, groove-centric music to the salacious strip club element to the voodoo vibe appeals to me.
I've never lived in New Orleans — or else my truncated life expectancy might be even shorter — but have visited enough times to find parking during Jazz Fest, know that Frenchmen is way cooler than Bourbon Street and what kind of beer to order: Abita! The Amber flavor is a marvelous Munich-style lager that at $2 a pint at Chappy's during happy hour is cheaper than what you will pay for it in most New Orleans bars.
Need more incentive to visit Chappy's after work? Not yet convinced that Abita is one of the greatest brews on the planet and a serious steal at $2 per pint? How about 16-ounce servings of Shock Top (orange slice included) Bud Light and Bud Select? Or Corona and Bud bottles also for $2?
Into the grape? Sycamore wines go for $2.50 a glass. The harder stuff? Bacardi and Captain Morgan double-talls are available for a measly five spot. Or, for the same price you can have a Long Island Iced Tea.
And then there's the lavish list of signature cocktails — Mardi Gras Ambrosia ($7), Gumbo Fizz ($7), Louisiana Planters Punch ($7), Marie Laveau's Absinthe Minded Martini ($8) and many more — that left me salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs.
"The Hurricane is what people usually go for during Chappy Hour," explained our friendly and informative bartender, Christina McClure. The Southern Comfort-infused delight is a decades-old product of New Orleans' famed Bourbon Street bar Pat O'Brien's. Chappy's wisely uses the O'Brien's mix to guarantee a palate-pleasing French Quarter experience.
Craig "Chappy" Chapman, who also owns nearby Grillside Central, has a background in French cuisine, and apparently photography as well. I was told he took all the gorgeous Crescent City photos that adorn the walls.
The exterior of Chappy's, which sits beneath a wrought iron balcony, also harkens back to NOLA, particularly the French Quarter. "It just looked like a perfect fit for a New Orleans-style restaurant," the affable Chapman said with a big grin.
I raised my glass of Abita in agreement and vowed to return.