FATHERS: WE KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Yes, you can do the froufrou Father's Day stuff we've laid out here. Sure, he may be tickled by the novelty of a spa day. But while he's lying there with cucumber rounds on his eyes, Dad will be thinking of the Four B's: burgers, beer, barbecue and bourbon. (There may be other B’s that his kids shouldn't speculate about.) So after the exfoliation, give the man what he really wants.
There's Baddest BBQ on the Bone, which runs in conjunction with the Bone Fishing Slam, 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. This festival features a barbecue competition, pig races, boat showcase, art vendors, marine vendors, a kid's fishing rodeo, live concert and a kids' zone. Admission is free. Madeira Beach Park, 200 Rex Place, Madeira Beach. (727) 216-6601.
And for the dad who is a bit of an Unconsolable Renegade, the free Bud and Burgers event hosted by alt-rock station 97X at 4 p.m. Saturday features rising rockers X Ambassadors headlining. And then there's the burgers from some of the bay's best restaurants and tons of Budweiser. It's free, but you have to have tickets from drops listed at 97xonline.com. What you save in ticket prices you should lavish on Dad in the form of beer and burgers, duh. The event was set for Al Lang Stadium but has moved to the Mahaffey, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg, due to weather. Free, $30 VIP. (813) 221-9797.
EAT AROUND: TAMPA BAY RESTAURANT WEEK
Starting Thursday and running through June 26, there's yet another no-brainer for dad: Take him out to eat during Tampa Bay Restaurant Week, with multiple-course prix-fixe menus for $30 or $45 at participating restaurants throughout Tampa Bay. Dad may be enthusiastic that Big Storm Brewing Co. is the official beer, Tito's Handmade Vodka is the official vodka, and Kahwa Coffee is the official coffee of Tampa Bay Restaurant Week. Visit tampabayrestaurantweek.com for a rundown of all the restaurants, but here's my curated list of what Dad is going to appreciate more than a new tie or golf tees:
Eats American Grill, left, is doing a half-pound Angus build-your-own-burger. $30 for two diners. 4502 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 835-3287.
Birch and Vine offers a grilled Niman Ranch sirloin with beer-batter pickled okra, cheese grits and smoked corn tomato salad. $30 per person. 340 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-1080.
Mad Beach Brewing is getting a little cray with a jelly doughnut burger (I have no idea; go order it and report back) and the safer-sounding day-boat grouper tacos. $30 for two diners. 12945 Village Blvd., Madeira Beach. (727) 362-0008.
The new Ox and Fields makes a statement with oxtail poutine and curry chicken potstickers. $45 per person. 7701 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa. (813) 443-6125.
SMOKIN': MORE 'CUE
Danny Hernandez had me at taxidermy, but the burnt ends (a.k.a. barbecue candy) really cemented the deal at his Holy Hog. At any of the Hog Nation outposts, the menu is heavy on Texas-style brisket, a couple kinds of sausage (smoked summer and spicy beef), St. Louis ribs and a whole lot of alluring sides. For dining in, the indoor-outdoor downtown location, with its powerful misting fans, is pleasant and has a good beer list, but I still prefer the relaxed atmosphere and broad picnic tables of the flagship on N Armenia. Steer toward the fattier point end of the brisket or the burnt ends, although it's easy to be beguiled by the sides, housemade chips, corn fritters and jalapeno mac and cheese at the top of the heap. (3501 N Armenia Ave., Tampa; (813) 879-4647)
The Brandon area tends to be impressive barbecue country (props to Down to the Bone), but First Choice is top dog. They're not real specific about the provenance of the recipe. When pressed, Florida barbecue sums it up just fine: no dry rub, a lot of smoky flavor and a sauce that is ketchup-based with a kick of vinegar. Ribs are tender, deeply smoky and delicious eaten sauced (on the sweet side) or au naturel. Spicy macaroni salad has proponents, but the fries (crisp, skin on, fresh-cut) are hard to overlook and the beans are good if you like them sweet with a hint of nutmeg or cinnamon. (10113 Adamo Drive, Tampa; (813) 621-7434)
4 Rivers Smokehouse opened its second Tampa location around Christmas, and I've never seen it without a line snaking out the front door. John Rivers, who spent 20 years of his career in health care, was bitten by the brisket bug and now has 11 barbecue locations with two more to come this year. They pretty much operate the same: Queue up at the door and an assembly line of affable young employees serve up Texas-style, 18-hour smoked Angus brisket, burnt ends, Southern pulled pork and St. Louis-style ribs, with sides from fried okra to baked beans and Texas corn bread. (607 S MacDill Ave. and 14330 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; toll-free 1-844-474-8377)