Tampa's pirate season might be months away, but that hasn't stopped a Ybor City bar from devoting an entire week to pirate revelry, starting on Sunday, which is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
In honor of its seventh anniversary, Gaspar's Grotto is having seven days of parties with free rum tasting, a costume contest and a pig roast. Beads and debauchery included.
Owners Eric and Shere Schiller says it's their way to thank the community for making Gaspar's the go-to bar for everything pirate, especially at a time when many bars and restaurants are struggling.
"We seem to be bucking the trend,'' Shere Schiller said. "We believe it. We want it to be world-renowned. It may sound arrogant, but it will happen.''
The celebration doubles as a kick off for the Galley, the restaurant aspect of Gaspar's Grotto, and its new kitchen designed by Jeannie Pierola, former chef in charge at SideBern's. The Schillers dedicated the kitchen "casita'' to Eric's parents, William and Freda Schiller, who died last year within a few weeks of one another. William lived in the Quarter at Ybor condos and was a fixture at the bar.
The kitchen building marks the latest effort to turn Gaspar's into a dining destination rather than just a pit stop for parading Gasparilla pirates and Ybor regulars. Look for waitresses in new red corsets and costumed hostesses pulling in customers from Seventh Avenue. A $50,000 city facade grant helped redo the bar's exterior.
The greater emphasis on food seemed a natural evolution for Gaspar's, which served only drinks for the first few years, Shere Schiller said. Its Booze Cruize brunches ($24.95 per person) have become Ybor staples, attracting crowds to the patio every Sunday for beignets, mimosas and bloody marys.
The expanded menu has all the obligatory bar grub plus more ambitious items courtesy of chef Craig Smith, from Littleneck Clams Alfredo to Grotto Snapper Mojito to Smokin' Pork Shank Chili.
Some things haven't changed. A shot of bourbon with a draft of Pabst Blue Ribbon still goes for $2. Customers can still call the waitresses "wenches.''