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2014 tbt* Ultimate Bar Reader Picks
2014 tbt* Ultimate Bar Reader Picks

Anchor Bar

The Anchor Bar is a narrow outpost for darts, craft beer, pub grub and beachy drinks. A nautical themed bar makes it a fine place to grab a Rum Punch or South of the Border Mojito now and then. Open daily 11am to 2am with $.50 wings all day every Monday. 304 E Davis Blvd., Tampa; (813)489-4573, anchorbartampa.com.

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Bilmar Station

Isn’t every Tampa sports bar a Bucs bar? Yeah, pretty much. But the old-school Bilmar Station is different. It's been around for years, and has a very solid craft beer selection, plus fun games like Sopranos pinball and a Skee-ball-like game called “Beer Ball.” There’s a Wall of Foam full of plaques honoring dedicated drinkers. This place may not have 100 giant flat-screens or an army of servers in tight-fitting referee tops, but it’s got a ton of lived-in character. 8501 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa; (813) 496-8898.

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The Brass Tap

Sign up for the Brass Tap’s Brew Crew, and get ready to reap the rewards. Drink 50 different beers and you get a $10 gift card and a T-shirt. The gift card value goes up if you try 100 beers ($25), 200 ($50) and 300 ($200). And what if you get up to 2,000? At least one drinker at the Brass Tap in Brandon has reached that rarefied territory. For their most devoted customers, the Brass Tap comes up with new perks, like polo and brewer shirts or tickets to a beer festival. The Brass Tap has locations across Tampa Bay; see brasstapbeerbar.com.

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Cigar City Brewing

There are plentiful options when it comes to fresh beer to go, and nowhere is this more true than at Cigar City Brewing. Every Tuesday, the brewery releases a new, limited release at noon, and a 32-oz. growler fill is only $8 (no gallons, unfortunately). Recent releases include White Oak Dragon Fruit IPA, French Oak Black Cherry Porter and Right Side Up Pineapple Cake lager. Forget your growler? An extra $1 gets you a “crowler” — a 32-oz. can, filled on site, that lasts longer than a traditional glass growler. 3924 W Spruce St., Tampa. (813)348-6363, cigarcitybrewing.com.

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The Dubliner

Whenever you feel like things might be getting a little too turnt up in SoHo, that’s when you duck into the Dubliner, with its relaxing, inviting patio and dark, lived-in nooks and crannies. Most of the time, there’s at least a chance you’ll be able to hear yourself think while noshing on a Guinness-marinated burger. 2307 W Azeele St., Tampa; (813) 258-2257, thedublineririshpub.com.

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Gaspar's Grotto

Gaspar’s Grotto aims to make sure you get your drink on with them for the rest of 2014 with a $10,000 Treasure Hunt Contest, which will give two customers each month the chance to be among 24 who will simultaneously dig into a sandbox full of gold and jewels for one minute and keep whatever they find. All the loot left in the sand will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundtation. 1805 E Seventh Ave., (813) 248-5900, gasparsgrotto.com.

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The Independent

The Independent, home to craft beer since before that was every bar’s bag, has been a gathering place for Seminole Heights since opening more than five years ago. You can hear talk of renovation projects around the dart boards and jokes about the community email group at the outdoor tables. There’s a happy hour, but most folks drift in and out at will, not beholden to specials. 5016 N Florida Ave., (813) 341-4883, independentbartampa.com.

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Irish 31

Dashing around the streets of Hyde Park on a summer Wednesday night becomes much easier when you know there are $2 beer specials and a complimentary buffet awaiting you at the end. The Irish 31 Running Club has been motivating people to get off the duff for several years with its weekly specials, team spirit and free carb-loaded post-run food. Cool accoutrements like a string-lit courtyard and live music help the truly out-of-shape forget the killer knee pain for a few minutes at a time. 1611 Swann Ave., Tampa. facebook.com/irish31runningclub.

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James Joyce Irish Pub

On Mondays from 5 to 9 p.m., a fancy yet frugal person can order two drinks and a $10.99 live Maine lobster at James Joyce Irish Pub. The James Joyce is a traditional Irish pub in every other respect, from its draft list to its long wooden bar, making slurping down rich, buttery lobster a unique experience, to be sure. 1724 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. (813) 247-1896, jamesjoyceybor.com.

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Linksters Tap Room

Linksters Tap Room is a no-frills sports bar with a serviceably stocked bar with a few decent craft beer options (Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat is a hot bottle). The game’s always on, and there’s pool and Golden Tee if it’s not — plus Linksters has a popular text-based BOGO deal (get details on their website). 1911 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon; (813) 654-3333, linksterstaproom.com.

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MacDinton's

All Tampa-based English Premier League fans respect the truism that most good soccer happens far away, and important games begin anywhere from midnight to 3 p.m. MacDinton’s Irish Pub understands that you need a beer with your game and has adjusted its schedule accordingly. It always has a beer special or two to accompany a particular match, and the bar’s big screen is such a great way to witness the beautiful game that almost every EPL supporters’ club can be counted on to bring a few bodies in during the season. There are two locations: 242 First Ave. N, St. Pete; and 405 S Howard Ave., Tampa. macdintons.com.

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Mermaid Tavern

This vinyl-loving hipster haven has a quirky but impressive drink selection (it has kombucha and root beer on tap alongside its many specialty craft beers), including a solid selection of mead and its cousins, such as melomel (which uses berries), cyser (apples) and pyment (grapes). If you’re into sweet, fruity wines, you’ll probably dig at least one of them, especially if you pair it with some of the Mermaid’s great late-night eats. 6719 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa. (813) 238-5618, mermaidtaverntampa.com.

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Mr. Dunderbak's

Mr. Dunderbak’s not only has an authentic German biergarten vibe, it also stocks a dazzling array of German prepared foods, as well as a bottle inventory that puts many local beer shops to shame. And better yet, Dunderbak’s has long prided itself on its extensive selection of rare and unusual rotating draft beers. Any given trip to Dunderbak’s is bound to yield a big find or two; after all, this is the place that had Westvleteren XII a few solid months before its mega-limited domestic release. 14929 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa. (813) 977-4104, dunderbaks.com.

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O'Toole's Irish Pub and Restaurant

Irish pubs have a powerful pull, even for those who’ve never set foot on the Emerald Isle. O’Toole’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Brandon is one of many bars kept afloat by the romance of sipping Guinness in an intimate pub lined with brass, dark wood and soccer scarves. It’s a place that feels dark even in the daylight, yet the conversation is friendly both inside and out on its airy patio. 1215 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon; (813)684-2600, otoolesirishbar.com.

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Peabody's Billiards

Not every great sports bar is a great college bar, and not every great college bar is a great sports bar. Peabody’s Billiards happens to be both. Located a hop and a skip from USF’s main Tampa campus, it’s a killer spot to watch any game, with 70-plus TVs (including 10-foot screens) always tuned to some sort of action. There are plenty of pool and foosball tables, plus weekly darts, pool, beer pong and poker tournaments. DJs and live music make the place come alive on weekends. 15333 Amberly Drive, Tampa; (813) 972-1725, peabodysbilliards.com.

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Skipper's Smokehouse

Every nook and cranny of the ramshackle Skipperdome looks like a cross between Hoarders, American Pickers and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives -- in a good way. Skipper's is best known for blues, rock, jam and Americana music, but all types of artists have played there, from the Black Keys to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings to Buddy Guy, whose autographed photo hangs by the Oyster Bar. 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. (813) 971-0666, skipperssmokehouse.com.

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The Stein & Vine

With a cheeky, creative food menu and carefully curated tap list, including many local beers you don't see every day, the Stein & Vine is a gem of a gastropub stashed deep in the Brandon ’burbs, one that would stand proudly in Seminole Heights, Dunedin, downtown St. Pete or any other hip urban area. 827 Bloomingdale Ave., Brandon; (813) 655-4786, thesteinandvine.com.

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Sunova Beach

Sunova Beach, which took Mangroves’ place earlier this year, is doing its best to bring the Gulf shores to South Tampa, particularly on an island-themed indoor-outdoor bar where you can order oversized punch drinks served in fishbowl-like glasses. 208 S Howard Ave., Tampa. (813) 250-0304, sunovabeachsoho.com.

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Tampa Tap Room

What do you get when you combine great Cajun food with a massive craft beer selection with several quality Belgian imports? The Tampa Tap Room. It may not be the traditional recipe for a Mardi Gras bash, but you won’t mind it once you try their andouille sausage, crawfish etouffe, oyster Po’boys or Gumbo YaYa. 13150 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 961-2337.

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Uncle Mike's Smokehouse Grill

Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse Grill looks like a barn from the outside and a hunting lodge on the inside, right down to the taxidermied kills mounted above the bar. Don’t let that scare you away from its inviting line-dance floor, though. Free lessons are offered at 7 p.m. Thursdays, and, in an ingenious maneuver to help fill the floor, Thursday doubles as “Guys Night,” in which guys drink free from 9 p.m. to midnight with the purchase of a Solo cup. 106 E State Road 60, Plant City. (813) 737-4444, unclemikesgrill.com.

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3 Daughters Brewing

3 Daughters Brewing is part bar, part rec room and part party playhouse, offering a decathlon’s worth of bar games, from the standard (oversized Jenga and Connect 4) to the very nice (chess, ping pong, tabletop shuffleboard) to the jaw-dropping (putt putt! basketball!). And of course, you’ll find beer — not just local favorites like their Bleach Blonde Ale and Summer Storm Stout, but taproom exclusives like Cherry Cream Ale and a barrel-aged 4 Redemption Belgian quadrupel. 222 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 495-6002, 3dbrewing.com.

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The Ale and the Witch

Since opening in January 2011, the Ale and the Witch has hosted more than 1,400 live performances -- all of them free -- making it nearly as well known for its music as it is for its constantly rotating selection of American craft beers.  111 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-2533, thealeandthewitch.com.

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Brewers' Tasting Room

Brewers’ Tasting Room doesn’t keep a full-time brewmaster on staff, doesn’t release beers for distribution and doesn’t have any flagship products. Instead, BTR works with homebrewers looking for experience brewing on large-scale charity brews and collaborations with other breweries from all over the country. The house beer selection is always changing, ranging from collaborations with Oskar Blues, Terrapin, Cigar City, St. Somewhere, and Johnathan Wakefield to releases from homebrewers. There's nothing else quite like it around. 11270 Fourth St. N, Suite 202, St. Petersburg. (727) 873-3900, brewerstastingroom.com.

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CJ's on the Island

At CJ’s on the Island in Treasure Island, Monday is dollar drink night, with $1 wells, $1.50 drafts and $2 fireballs from 9 p.m. to close. CJ’s has a concert-quality karaoke lounge, and they recently kicked off live-band karaoke on Wednesday nights, but if you’d rather pick up a cheap drink than a microphone, Monday is a great time to go. 115 107th Ave., Treasure Island, (727) 360-1760, cjsonti.com.

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Green Bench Brewing Co.

This summer, Green Bench won a pair of gold medals at the U.S. Open Beer Championship in Atlanta, including one in the Wood/Barrel-Aged Pale Beer category for its eminently worthy Saison de Banc Vert. This gold and several other medals were enough to place Green Bench in the Open’s Top 10, and earn the young brewery a write-up in Paste magazine. 1133 Baum Ave N, St. Petersburg. (727) 800-9836, greenbenchbrewing.com.

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Harry's Beach Bar

Harry’s Beach Bar at the Sirata Beach Resort claims to be “the oldest beachfront bar in St. Pete,” and when it’s this hot out, who’d bother arguing? Located poolside, just a few steps from the beach, it’s got a small menu with all the rummy, fruity classics — rum runners, margaritas, Bahama Mamas and the like. 5300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; (855) 344-5999, sirata.com.

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O'Maddy's Bar and Grille

Hear us out: Sometimes to recover after a night of devilish drinking, you require a taste the hair of the dog that bit you — and a big, hearty breakfast (or lunch) to go along with it. O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport serves “Dr. Randy Shuck’s Hangover Burger” for $10.95. An 8-oz. patty topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onions, it’s named for Dr. Randy A. Shuck, a Bay News 9 health expert, professor of medicine at St. Petersburg General Hospital and friend of O’Maddy’s owners. His professional opinion? It does the trick. 5405 Shore Blvd. S, Gulfport; (727) 323-8643, omaddys.com.

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Tryst Gastro Lounge

If you want to see and be seen in St. Pete, hang out by the indoor-outdoor bar at Tryst Gastro Lounge. The sleek, South Beach-style cocktail lounge and bistro fills a narrow wedge of Beach’s 200 Block, ensuring that any St. Pete scenesters walking to and fro have to nudge past you and your St. Germain Cocktail. 240 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 821-4567, trystgastrolounge.com.

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7venth Sun Brewery

Dunedin’s 7venth Sun Brewery is one of the more prolific makers of barrel-aged beers, and used to serve a different barrel-aged beer on tap each week. These days, there’s some form of barrel-aged beer on tap around 40 percent of the time. Previous releases have featured sour blonde ales aged in wine barrels, imperial porters aged in rum barrels and, recently, a gin barrel-aged IPA. 1012 Broadway, Dunedin. (727) 733-3013, 7venthsun.com.

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The Brown Boxer

Clearwater Beach is littered with indoor-outdoor bars, perfect for escaping the summer sun while keeping the salty breeze within arm’s reach. The Brown Boxer is one of the best, with tables outside and big, wide open windows near the bars. It’s a surprisingly sprawling place, even on weekends, when live music is pumping. 483 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach; (727) 441-6000, thebrownboxer.com.

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Drifters Sports Pub

Let’s face it — bar games are the only exercise some of us can expect to get. For this group, Drifter’s Sports Bar might as well be a gym, with its impressive array of bar games and other indoor amusements. For wrist workouts, try the Megatouch console or arcade-style claw game. Upper body needs some work? Lots of options: Darts, pool, video golf and even table shuffleboard and tennis. 1717 Drew St., Clearwater. (727) 442-5642, drifterssportspub.com.

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Dunedin Brewery

There are nearly 30 craft breweries in the Bay Area now, but Dunedin Brewery was one of the first. Some of the drinks you could have ordered in the '90s are still in regular rotation — Apricot Peach, Piper’s Pale, Redhead Red — along with newer fare, like the coffee-laden Bière de Café brown ale, the fruity Nelson Sauvin IPA and the coconut curry-based Bring the Noise saison collaboration with neighbors 7venth Sun. 937 Douglas Avenue, Dunedin 34698. (727)736-0606, dunedinbrewery.com.

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Eddie's Bar and Grill

Adults may come for the 50-tap beer list or the new, adjacent wine nook Pam’s Grape Room, but kids (and kids at heart) come to Eddie’s for the Chuck E. Cheese vibe of its game room. There you’ll find games of every stripe — bar standards like darts, pool, foosball and Big Buck Hunter, but also arcade favorites like air hockey, Hoop Fever basketball and even Skee-Ball. 1283 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin; (727) 734-2300, eddiesbarandgrill.com.

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Finley's Irish Pub and Eatery

Alex Cusick and his wife, Amy O'Hara, were regulars of Finley's Wednesday-night Trivia night before they took over the game a year and a half ago. At first they did it just for free drinks; now, with Finley’s getting packed some Wednesdays (especially during snowbird season), they earn a small stipend for their effort. Cusick writes the questions, O’Hara edits, fact-checks and votes yay or nay; the winner each week gets a bottle of Fireball whiskey. 13477 S Belcher Road, Largo. (727) 535-7858, finleysirishpub.com.

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Freaki Tiki

The rise in popularity of EDM culture has brought about a wave of colorful and creative late-night bacchanals — paint parties, neon parties, feather parties and the like. Clearwater’s Freaki Tiki Bar is entirely on board with the trend, throwing a monthly Glow Party during which DJs spin dubstep and trap music, bartenders dispense silly-sounding shots and fans dress in their finest white and neon to dance amid laser lights and glowsticks. 28778 U.S. 19, Clearwater; (727) 329-6160, freakitikibar.com.

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Nolan's Pub

Like Cheers, Nolan's Pub is a place where everyone might actually know your name. It’s a friendly little pub in downtown Safety Harbor, and if you pop in on any given day, there’s a good chance that you’ll find owner Craig Davide working behind the bar. Nolan's loyalty card — the “McGillicuddy Wheel” — rewards patrons with a Nolan’s T-shirt after the first completion, a name on the wall for the second, and an engraved plaque on the bar for the 10th. 230 Main St., Safety Harbor. (727) 400-6998, nolanspub.com.

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Palm Harbor House of Beer

The Palm Harbor House of Beers, which has 50 beers on tap, has held dozens of keep-the-pint nights over the years, and this month, it'll host Sixpoint Brewery night, celebrating the Brooklyn outfit’s Tesla lager. Keep-the-pint nights are common and popular at both the Palm Harbor location and its sister bar in Dunedin. “Some of these people have better pint glass collections than we do,” said managing partner A.J. Bubolz. 34970 U.S. 19, Palm Harbor; (727) 784-2337, palmharborhob.com.

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Sea Sea Riders

The wrap-around porch and Old Florida feel at Sea Sea Riders make it one of the best bars in Tampa Bay to say “I do.” Co-owner Sylvia Tzekas can’t even count the number of weddings, receptions and rehearsal dinners she’s hosted in the past 25 years. Sea Sea Riders relies on its sunset and marina views, 30-and-up customer base and prime Dunedin location to keep the family-owned tradition going. 221 Main St., Dunedin seaseariders.net.

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Tarpon Tavern

Eagle-eyed joggers and bikers will no doubt spot several pubs and cafes along the Pinellas Trail, and one of the best is the Tarpon Tavern, located just off the trail in the heart of Tarpon Springs. The lunchtime offerings are plentiful, as are your craft beer options, which always feature local favorites like Tarpon Springs’ own Saint Somewhere Brewing Company. 20 N Safford Ave., Tarpon Springs; (727) 945-1000,  tarpontavern.com.

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Yard of Ale Gastro Pub

The Yard of Ale Gastro Pub in Clearwater is best known as a beer bar, but its cocktails are nothing to sneeze at, especially its spin on the copper-mugged Moscow Mule. In fact, the Yard of Ale has two of them — the Paddy Mule, made with Tullamore Dew whiskey, and the Opie’s Mule, made with Ford’s Gin. On Thursday nights, when craft cocktails are $3 off, it's a great pick. 2675 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater. (727) 800-9872, yoagastropub.com

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