Monday, December 18, 2017
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Supa D brings reggae, dancehall and a taste of Jamaica to Tampa

Homestyle Jamaican cooking by day; packed club with big-name international talent by night. Sound improbable? Sure, but that's exactly what's going on at Tampa's Supa D Tropical Bar and Grill.

Formerly known as Club Tropix, Supa D is a restaurant featuring authentic Jamaican fare. Patrons can dine inside or they can kick back in the outdoor courtyard. On a humid day, it may actually feel like you're in the islands. On weekend nights, you can do the same, but there's a good chance your meal will come with a side of throbbing bass emanating from a massive sound system.

The colorful, loud flyers for upcoming Supa D events promised reggae, dancehall, soca. I'll admit to not knowing much about these genres. (A basic familiarity with late '60s Jamaican ska is about as far as I ever ventured into the music of the Caribbean.)

But many of the names were those of well-known and respected artists: I-Octane, Munga Honorable, Capleton, even a benefit for controversial reggae star Buju Banton.

Another flyer advertised performances by two sound systems — collectives of DJs and MCs who organize and play parties and concerts, a Jamaican tradition that started 60-odd years ago with DJs spinning records in the back of a pickup truck outfitted with a generator. Bass Odyssey and Stone Love were booked for the night I picked, each group boasting an impressive history in the reggae scene.

From the street, Supa D looks like an island hut, fashioned from bamboo, with palm trees beside the entrance. In contrast to its unassuming exterior, the inside is quite massive. An outdoor courtyard has a small stage; the interior consists of an island bar flanked by a small lounge with pool table, a sunken dining area/ dance floor, booth seating around the perimeter, a large stage and a VIP loft overlooking it all. Several golf cart-sized subwoofers were positioned about the room.

As an occasional club DJ, I'm no stranger to pounding bass. But the sound at Supa D was bigger than nearly anything I've experienced. This created a cool vibe, as the crowd multiplied and began to get into the bass-drenched groove permeating the dance floor. Surprisingly, the bar was quiet enough to hold a conversation. I asked what was good, and the bartender told me that wells were two-for-one for ladies. No help for my drink, but my girlfriend's ended up being a real bargain.

The beers were basic club fare, the wines essentially a red/white decision, and the liquor selection fairly no-frills. But the cocktails had an edge, as they were mixed with a hand as heavy as you could expect to find outside of the crustiest dive bars. If I cringed at a rum-and-pineapple's $7 price tag, I immediately recanted, knowing that the drink in my hand may have in fact been a triple.

The kitchen is open even during events, so you can enjoy Jamaican food with the party in full swing. I didn't order any during this concert, as I was busy taking in the scene near the stage, where Bass Odyssey and Stone Love were spinning discs on dueling digital turntables.

For an experience, Supa D Tropical Bar and Grill is almost certainly one-of-a-kind in the bay area. A Caribbean restaurant with live music is not unprecedented, but the caliber and notoriety of entertainment on the Supa D event calendar is impressive. I wouldn't hesitate to check out the next big show at Supa D.

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