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At Acropolis Greek Taverna, ouzo and hookah are plentiful

Acropolis Greek Taverna has been a fixture in Tampa Bay for some time now, with locations in Tampa, Riverview, and now downtown St. Petersburg, but I've never really considered it a nightlife destination.

But the Acropolis in New Tampa is quite popular with the college crowd due to its proximity to USF, so I thought I'd see what they had to offer those of us who sometimes find ourselves in popular restaurants late at night, with cocktails and entertainment supplanting food as the primary reason to visit.

The first thing you'll notice will likely be the abundance of napkins everywhere — they're on the floor, hanging off of railings, and somehow even stuck to the ceiling. Acropolis patrons will recognize the spectacle that occurs throughout the day with dancers and music, complete with traditional plate-breaking and napkin-throwing — it's an interesting touch.

The restaurant is divided into three areas. The indoor seating area has a lowered section with chairs and tables that also doubles as a dance floor at night, and a large, wraparound bar sits to the side; outside is a courtyard area, complete with a fountain and hookah bar.

We arrived late, so it wasn't surprising that few people were eating. Instead, the main dining area with filled with people dancing while a DJ played energetic Mediterranean music, and the courtyard was filled with people lounging at their tables with hookahs and cocktails. We sat at the indoor bar, which was shockingly loud, leading to a few humorous miscommunications with the bartender.

I was surprised to see fair prices on the beer list, which offers all domestics (including Sam Adams) for $3 and all imports for $4. Four Greek beers are available, so I had a go at the Mythos, which was recommended by the bartender. I noticed that it was brewed in Thessaloniki, which reminded me of a visit there in 2001. I visited a lot of Greek drinking establishments, and sitting in Acropolis, with the Mediterranean décor and music, I felt like this place really did have an element of authenticity.

After taking in the indoor scene, we ordered another round — ouzo, on the rocks — and headed outside to the hookah bar. The music played at a lower volume, and the courtyard had a relaxed, outdoor lounge feel. Most tables seated four or five, with a large hookah sitting to the side.

For those not familiar with the concept, hookahs are large, communal pipes where groups of people share a flavored tobacco, called shisha.

This was totally different than the nightlife scene that I was expecting; the focus outside was less on partying and more on having a leisurely conversation with friends. The ouzo turned cloudy as the ice dissolved, and we proceeded to wind down the night while strange, fruit-scented tobacco wafted by.

To be honest, college nightlife hotspots aren't at the top of my list for hangouts. Fortunately, Acropolis had a completely different vibe than what I was expecting. The music was great and the ambiance was friendly and fun.

While most restaurants offer a bar as a supplement to their dinner menu, you may very well find Acropolis worth a trip even if you're not looking for solid fare. Authenticity is plentiful here, and the drink menu is no exception. So, as the Greek say, "Yiamas!"


Acropolis Greek Taverna

14947 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa; (813) 971-1787;

The vibe: A bustling, entertaining bar with an authentic Mediterranean feel.

Booze: Beer, wine, full liquor. Beer $3-$4; wine $6-$12 (glass) or $25-$45 (bottle); liquor is mostly in the $5 range, with house cocktails from $6 to $9. Sangria and margaritas are 2-for-1.

Specialty: Order the Zorba Ouzo before you eat, either on the rocks or mixed with a little water. A traditional apertif, ouzo is meant to stimulate the appetite before a meal. The milky color comes from the anise essential oils, which are not water-soluble.

Food: Appetizers, soups and salads $3-$12; Entrées $9-$27.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday

At Acropolis Greek Taverna, ouzo and hookah are plentiful 10/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:15pm]
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