Easy being green: Celebration spots
You know what Tampa's Mayor's River O'Green Fest reminds you? Looking out Saturday over that Hillsborough River turned a lively shade of emerald you think, "Darn, I'm thirsty. Where does a person grab a Guinness around here?" • After the family-friendly activities in Curtis Hixon Park, it's grown-up time. Here are spots to raise a pint this weekend, or all year long.
O'Keefe's Tavern and Restaurant (1219 S Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater, (727) 442-9034) is the restaurant/bar for St. Patrick's Day, a good-times, pint-or-three shambling Irish pub the rest of the year. This place has history, going back to the 1960s when it was O'Keefe's Tap Room, a history still visible despite the many additions and remodelings. A brick exterior gives way to a comfortable series of rooms festooned with lots of green accents and Irishobilia. The brogue-required bartenders are fast and furious with the beers and the all-ages crowd is unified by affection for the place. Once known for its "seven-course Irish dinner" (that's six beers and a potato), O'Keefe's fare has branched out to include such Dublin-incorrect favorites as lobster rolls and hefty burgers (regulars swear by the one topped with peanut butter and bacon, no lie). On Friday, the party tent opens at noon, $5 cover for adults after 3 p.m., with live bands, bagpipers and Irish dancing shows.
A creamy smooth Guinness and a few choruses of Danny Boy at MacDinton's Irish Pub & Restaurant (405 S Howard Ave., Tampa, (813) 251-8999; and 242 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 201-9783) and you'll be pining for old County Cork even if you're not Irish. Bagpipers, stomping Irish dancers, drink specials and an all-day party make this lively Irish bar a mecca on St. Paddy's Day (the Tampa location has been swamped since its debut in 2002). There's a killer black and tan, a warming Irish coffee and a fair representation of Irish staples, from rib-sticking, mashed-potatoey shepherd's pie sliders to respectable bangers and mash, all served in the clubby, dark-wood bar.
If your passion for Ireland remains unslaked, Four Green Fields (205 W Platt St., Tampa, (813) 254-4444) offers lots of St. Paddy's revelry — on Friday doors open at 8 a.m. and live music starts at 11 a.m. The oldest Irish pub of South Tampa's big three and the most well-known in Tampa Bay, Four Green Fields proudly advertises itself as "America's only authentic thatched roof pub." There are also two wooden decks and a bar in the rear outside area. Irish greats such as Tommy Makem, the Prodigals, the Corrs and Sinéad O'Connor have all played Four Green Fields, which has traditional Irish musicians perform every weekend. Perhaps the most Irish thing about Four Green Fields? Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has bellied up to the bar, and most staff members are from Ireland.
Dubliner Irish Pub (2307 W Azeele St., Tampa, (813) 258-2257) is a smaller, quainter place to toast the patron saint of Ireland. This pub offers food and drink specials all day at the epicenter of Irish zeal on Azeele. Laid-back and charming, the Dubliner has been a SoHo favorite since 2002, not far from its sworn enemy, MacDinton's. A converted house decorated with beautiful Emerald Isle bric-a-brac, the Dubliner has a handsome deck and a total of four full bars including a tiki.
Get historical: On the menu
On Friday, the Henry Plant Museum debuts a new exhibit called Menus: An Epicurean Experience, which runs through Dec. 23. Using original menus as a starting point to explore fine dining at the Tampa Bay Hotel from 1891 to 1932, these rarely exhibited menus draw visitors into the conversation of Victorian food, the source of food, its preparation, etiquette, fashion and utensils that blend together to create the Victorian epicurean experience. The exhibit displays original artifacts, including menus, photos, clothing, and utensils from the Tampa Bay Hotel, other Florida hotels and private collections. At 7 p.m. Friday there will be a free lecture by Patrick Dunne, proprietor of Lucullus antiques in New Orleans and author of The Epicurean Collector. Entrance to the exhibit is included with admission to the museum; $10 adults. 401 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. (813) 254-1891.