By Laura Reiley
Times Food Critic
Rebecca and Joe Glass liked craft beer. They knew craft beer. Their friends said, "You should open a craft beer bar." And the Glasses responded assertively, "When pigs fly."
On Nov. 14 the Flying Pig Taphouse opened. There must be eye-rolling among their friends, or at least eyebrow-waggling. It's a huge space at the bottom of the new Fusion 1560 apartments, a stone's throw from the Trop. New to the restaurant business, the couple spent the past 18 months planning the space, starting a build-out in August from the dirt floors up. The result is spare and attractive, with lots of wide open space and a long, gleaming wooden bar behind which 50 taps beckon.
The Glasses' taste in beer is catholic: American craft beers, imports, seasonal brews and some big-production standbys. They've also taken advantage of a new Florida law legalizing wine on tap. Flying Pig showcases four, the advantages being the wine stays fresh longer, the temperature is right and the savings is passed on to consumers (good-quality pinot noir, cab, pinot gris and chard, all $7 per glass).
The one-page food menu is not taking itself too seriously so far. Case in point: the Frito pie ($4), a bag of Fritos with beef chili, cheddar shreds, chopped onion and sour cream tossed right in the bag. If your jaw just dropped, Google it. It's a thing. There are serviceable soft pretzels with stone-ground mustard ($6.50) and guilty-pleasure French onion dip served with ruffle chips ($4).
Flying Pig still feels a little wobbly, from the servers' patter to what's going on in the kitchen: A three cheese and avocado panini ($9) brings a very laudable and gooey-centered, crusty-edged small sandwich, but a turkey and bacon sandwich ($7.50) is about as dry and pedestrian a thing as ever got slapped between two slices of white bread. It's the kind of sandwich you shuffle into the kitchen to eat at 1 a.m., debating between that and just eating cold cuts from the package in the light of the open fridge.
A lot of local beer bars, microbreweries and brewpubs eschew food entirely, relying on collaborations with adjacent restaurants for delivery service. Flying Pig's kitchen won't accommodate enormously ambitious fare (no grill or fryer), but it certainly has the potential to become a "local" for those who live in the apartments upstairs, as well as those trawling the increasingly busy streets of Grand Central in search of a good time.
Pool tables and TVs, nice big community tables, a warm staff and a something-for-everyone beer list all go a long way to making Flying Pig a successful neighborhood bar. If the kitchen focused in a little on the details (the Flying Pig salad, $8, was a muddy mess of flavors) and perhaps broadened the scope beyond bar snacks, this pig really might fly.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.