Thursday, June 21, 2018
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Lucky Dill becomes a nightlife haven in Palm Harbor

The New York-themed Lucky Dill Deli was a popular standby for Palm Harbor residents for many years. So popular, in fact, that it outgrew its landmark Alderman and Alt. U.S. 19 location, prompting the owners to take up new digs down the road in a larger, new location last November.

Any time a popular restaurant or bar packs up and moves to a new spot, reviews are bound to be mixed. Some will claim that the place has lost its charm; others will applaud the upgrade. But I'd never been to the old Lucky Dill, so I have no nostalgic stake in the old one. Besides, the reason I drove out to visit wasn't for the pastrami, it was for the cocktails!

The new location came with more than just additional seating to accommodate bigger crowds, it also came with its very own cocktail lounge — the NYC Bar — and late-night hours, live music and an expanded drink list that overtly references the television series Mad Men.

The new spot is a looker. From the outside, the long building appears to be separated into three distinct business — Brooklyn Bakery, the Lucky Dill and the Lucky Dill Deli — perhaps designed to look like adjacent buildings in space-cramped NYC, although the palm trees are a dead giveaway. The bakery takes up a small space of its own to the right, the deli occupies a large indoor seating and outdoor patio to the left, and directly in the middle is the NYC Bar and accompanying Tribeca Lounge (the rooms are named after NYC boroughs and neighborhoods).

During the day, the restaurant is filled with natural sunlight and large lunch crowds; at night, it's dark for the bar crowd, a majority of the light coming from hanging bulbs encased in larger glass bulbs above the bar and lamps suspended throughout each room in a variety of complex metalwork fixtures and chandeliers.

The bar is oval-shaped, bisected by a brick archway that gives it the impression of being constructed inside of a tunnel. Combined with a handful of authentic New York MTA signs hanging on the walls, you might think you're in the best-smelling subway station in the world. On either side of the bar are booths, and at the end is a small stage area where live bands perform several nights of the week, as well as long, white booths arranged in plush lounge fashion, backed by a really neat textured wall.

So the place looked great, but it wasn't until I requested a drink menu that I was able to see the full picture. They are not playing around at the NYC Bar. Inside the surprisingly thick drink menu, I found enough wines for a well-stocked cellar, a healthy selection of draft and bottled beers (more than 50 in all), coffee-based drinks, non-alcoholic beverages, and a cocktail list so comprehensive that it took nearly five minutes just to read through it, and another five just to make up my mind.

While you may be used to simply ordering a Manhattan or a mojito, here you have several different options for each. Seven variations on the Long Island, four screwdrivers, a smattering of sangrias, Marys, Champagne cocktails, martinis, and nearly every classic cocktail you can think of, from Rob Roys and Alexanders to stingers, and, appropriately enough for a bar housed inside of a deli, the Gibson (a martini variation that uses a cocktail onion instead of an olive).

I'm not sure if we just had a bartender with a lead hand, but true to classic cocktail form, the drinks were remarkably stiff, not to mention very tasty. There are a lot of variables involved in this place, from the new location, old clientele, New York theme, and quirky combination of deli, restaurant, and bakery, and to me, it all seems to work. But my specialty is in the adult beverage department, and in that regard I feel like the Lucky Dill is really onto something with the NYC bar.

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