Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa's Cigar City Brewpub elevates the craft beer game

TAMPA — People say a lot of things about Joey Redner. Talk to craft beer fans across the country and you'll hear words like "visionary" and "standard-bearer." What they seldom say is "contrarian." But it's true.

In 2009, he started Cigar City Brewing in a city not known for craft beer in a state woefully behind the rest of the country, a place where even the laws seemed designed to thwart brewers. Why not take all that beer know-how and enthusiasm to a place where it would be appreciated? And then he started Cigar City, not in "cigar city," a.k.a. Ybor City, but on an unlovely industrial stretch of Spruce Street near Tampa International.

Now he's undertaken his first brewpub, not in one of the area's hip enclaves like Seminole Heights or downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg. No, it's in Northdale, where Carrollwood meets Lutz, a neighborhood where every other car is a minivan with a "My Child Is An Honor Student" bumper sticker. No offense, but Northdale has a fraction of the interesting facial hair of Seminole Heights.

Opened on April 1 but hardly an April Fools' prank, Cigar City Brewpub is the work of a brilliant team in fine fettle. Superbly designed, it's whimsical and lively with a short, affordable menu that feels like a breath of fresh air.

Just getting geared up to brew on site (it will feature five beers unique to this location as well as other Cigar City and Florida craft beers), the brewer for the brewpub is Tim Ogden. He worked with C.C.'s head brewer Wayne Wambles and his personal triumphs there included Moat Water (which gets a perfect 100 on RateBeer.com) and Tocobaga Red Ale (it scores a 98).

And after having made serious waves with his savvy craft cocktails at Ciro's Speakeasy and Boca Kitchen Bar Market, both in Tampa, Bob Wagner has been tapped as manager. (Why the move for him? "Cigar City Brewing is one of those companies that celebrates everything that is great about Tampa.") As assistant manager, the dynamic Baye Perry was employed, having spent time at Datz and at a gastropub in the Detroit suburbs.

Indeed, the brewpub fits neatly in the gastropub box. It's still a fairly nebulous term despite having recently landed in Merriam-Webster, but I think of a gastropub as having more ambitious fare than "pub grub," with an affection for hearty things like housemade charcuterie that pair well with great beer or smart drinks.

As with most contrarians, if Redner is doing "gastropub," he's doing it his own dang way. He's hired Nicolay Adinaguev (he's Peruvian-Russian), most recently of Steak 954 at the W in Fort Lauderdale and previously at Michael's Genuine in Miami. Adinaguev grew up in South Florida and he's clearly been given the green light to bring some Cuban razzle-dazzle to the menu.

So, a crock of pork rillette (shreds of almost pate-like silken pork you spread on crostini; $7) gets a little mojo seasoning. A pair of eggrolls ($5) comes with Cuban sandwich filling, all that roast pork and salami and Swiss paired with a mustard dipping sauce. There's a slow-cooked boliche shot through with housemade chorizo ($15), ropa vieja ($15) and Tampa's own historic oddity, crunchy-crusted devil crab ($8).

But really, things get interesting when Adinaguev spreads out a little and doesn't hew too close to Cuban inspiration. A plate of fat grilled asparagus stalks get a vivacious romesco sauce (a tangy roasted red pepper puree) lent distinction by hazelnuts in lieu of almonds. A panzanella of La Segunda bread and heirloom tomatoes ($9) brought gorgeous flavors (although the bowl was too small and the hunks too big and hard to eat). A kimchi jar ($5) of cabbage and daikon was an appetizer in the truest meaning, getting the saliva flowing and enlivening the senses. Pair this with a bowl of geez-I-need-to-stop-eating-these fried chicarrones ($6) with a bit of salt and lime and it's perfect beer food.

You wouldn't think beer-friendly fare would include salads like one of greens, roasted beets and goat cheese mousse ($9) or another of local kale and fried hominy ($10) and shaves of pecorino, but it does. The same goes for the very best dessert, the Hunahpu's Imperial flourless chocolate cake ($8), a homey, dense confection in which the beer's pasilla chilis and cinnamon can be detected. Launched at $5 and quickly bumped to $8, it's still loss leader when you consider beer nuts buy bottles of Cigar City's prized Hunahpu online for more than $100 — a bottle.

Whole Foods recently took a gamble that the Northdale area would support its organic/sustainable mission, and Cigar City Brewpub is doing the same — wherever possible, it draws from local farms for veggies and meats. Yeah, a lot of restaurants are saying that these days, so it's prudent to be skeptical. Redner is such an exuberant Florida booster that it's not surprising to see grits, strawberries, shrimp and other items sourced from our state (but Joey, take a look at the cheese and charcuterie plates — surely something could come from Florida?).

So, great beer, a singular and Florida-centric menu, dynamic staff and cool atmosphere, Northdale gets it all. And to me the most satisfying thing is it all takes place in what was once a T.G.I. Friday's.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

Cigar City Brewpub

15491 N Dale Mabry

Highway, Tampa

(813) 962-1274

Cuisine: Gastropub

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, until midnight Thursday to Saturday

Details: AmEx, V, MC, Disc.; reservations accepted; full bar

Prices: Snacks $4-$8; small plates $8-$12; entrees $12-$20

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★★ Service: ★★★

Atmosphere: ★★★

Overall: ★★★

Tampa's Cigar City Brewpub elevates the craft beer game 04/23/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 9:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. If you miss out on Retro Futura tour, you'll be needing a little 'Tenderness'

    Blogs

    Closing out Retro Futura Week is a little bit of a cheat. We started the week with the English Beat and we end it with an offshoot of the Beat, the band General Public and their hit …

  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 20

    Events

    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    Eliana Goldberg, 5, of Wesley Chapel looks at a Lego sculpture called "Everlasting" at The Art of the Brick exhibit, which opened Friday in Tampa and runs through Sept. 4. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 19

    Events

    Monster Jam Triple Threat Series: Come early for the Pit Party ($15 or free at local Ford dealers) to meet the drivers and get pictures with the trucks. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $15-$80. (813) 301-2500.

    A crew member from the El Toro Loco monster truck, installs a truck tire, Thursday, 8/17/17 in preparation for Saturday's  Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at Amalie Arena, Tampa. The event will be held Saturday at 1pm and 7 pm.
  5. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]