BARFLY ON THE WALL

Albatross Bar & Grill flies high above the pack

Writing about places that fall into the "bar and grill" category is always a challenge. As a drinking establishment, the bar and grill usually succeeds not by carving a niche or offering gimmicks but by trying to appeal to the widest possible audience. To this end, you can usually count on the bar and grill to have a few consistent and mostly nondivisive elements: a bit of a sports theme, big-screen TVs, a pool table or two, a few cold drafts and a full kitchen.

In this type of bar, little stands out or is otherwise immediately memorable. That's not necessarily a bad thing, either — bar and grills are often successful because the middle-of-the-road formula simply works. And occasionally, a place like this will go the extra mile and try to set themselves apart from the crowd, as I found to be the case when I paid a visit to Albatross Bar & Grill in Tampa.

Albatross Bar & Grill is in a strip mall off Waters Avenue, which I've noticed is pretty characteristic of bars in this part of Tampa. So it's no surprise that the bar doesn't look like much from the outside, with a few brightly colored poster boards displaying drink specials and promotions making up the bulk of the exterior décor. Inside, it's a different story entirely.

From the polished wood tables and bar to the unusually clean felts of the pool tables, the bar seems brand new. The entire place is immaculate — not in a sterile, boring way, but in a way that makes me feel like the owners and staff take great pride in their establishment. The usual trappings of the bar and grill are present here, but a few additions stand out, such as the beach paraphernalia dotting the walls and ceiling, a small stage with a DJ spinning records and a few classic arcade games to the side, including that beloved classic, the stuffed-animal claw game.

The bar is fully stocked with spirits and wines for all tastes, and the draft and bottled beer selection is decidedly above-average, with more micros than the big-label domestics that usually dominate the draft lines at your typical bar and grill. A sign is posted near the kitchen advertising a few new sauces available — tequila-lime BBQ and "wasabiyaki" seemed particularly promising — to pair with some of the many food items on the menu, another extra touch to show that people are actually putting work into this place, rather than just going through the motions.

Albatross is also jam-packed with weekly specials, such as $3 wells and $2 domestic drafts on Saturday nights. Other nights are devoted to different events, with DJs, karaoke, all-you-can-eat pizza, beer pong, all-you-can-drink specials and even a movie night on Sundays. Pay-per-view and regular broadcast sporting events play on half of the bar's many television screens, with the rest reserved for Buzztime trivia and poker, which most of the patrons were busy playing during my visit.

In a genre of bars saturated with intentional mediocrity for the sake of mainstream appeal, Albatross Bar & Grill does its part to stand out. The environment is pleasant and the service is friendly, which is really enough on its own, but the busy and varied event calendar, numerous drink specials and abundance of entertainment make Albatross worth more than a passing glance.

— jg@saintbeat.com

Albatross Bar & Grill

7551 W Waters Ave, Tampa; (813) 443-0671

The vibe: A beach-themed sports bar with a wealth of games and entertainment.

Booze: Beer, $2-$4.75; wine, $3-$6; liquor, $3-$7.

Specialty: The beer selection is a step up from the average bar and grill, with a few larger microbrews that aren't easily found elsewhere, such as Red Hook's seasonal Mudslinger nut brown ale. A tropical cocktail also blends in well with the beach theme and current warm weather, so consider a Mai Tai or rum and pineapple if you're in the mood.

Food: Appetizers, soups, salads, sides & sandwiches, $1.95-$9.95; entrées, $6.95-$12.95.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily, although the bar occasionally closes early Sunday through Thursday.

Albatross Bar & Grill flies high above the pack 04/14/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:16pm]

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