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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.


Supa D Tropical Bar and Grill

810 Skagway Avenue, Tampa, FL 33614; (813) 476-1129

The vibe: A sprawling restaurant and nightclub with high-profile reggae and dancehall events.

Food: Check the daily menu for current deals, such as the $3.99 lunch special.

Booze: Beer, $5; wine, $5; liquor, $7-$9.

Specialty: For beer, Supa D has the basics covered, with bottles of Heineken, Bud, Bud Light, Guinness Export, and Jamaica's own Red Stripe, one of which is usually on special. But your best bet is probably a simple cocktail, like a rum-based punch — the pours are extremely generous, which helps make up for the nightclub price tag.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday;

9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday-Sunday.

Supa D brings reggae, dancehall and a taste of Jamaica to Tampa 03/01/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 4:13pm]
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