Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: At Top Shelf Sports Lounge, beer comes with side of hockey rinks

Of all the implausible locations Iíve visited for a night at the bar, a hockey rink in Wesley Chapel is one of the most unique.

A few months back, I caught wind of a new sports barís grand opening, located in the upper deck of Florida Hospital Center Ice. I quickly learned this is no ordinary ice rink: Florida Hospital Center Ice is the largest facility of its kind in the Southeast, featuring three NHL-sized rinks, an Olympic rink and a junior rink, plus a fitness center, pro shop and concession stand.

The downstairs concession stand is an extension of the kitchen upstairs at the Top Shelf Sports Lounge, a full-service bar and restaurant catering to players, skaters and fans alike, as well as casuals like me checking out the unlikely setup.

On its own, Top Shelf is a reasonable sports bar. Itís clean and simple, with adequate TV coverage and plenty of booze and food. Thereís bar trivia on Wednesdays, happy hour specials on weekdays and late-night happy hour specials every day of the week. Lightning games trigger even more specials.

The best, by far, is Flipping Friday. From 9 p.m. to close (which is 11:30 p.m. at the earliest) on Fridays, you can flip a coin for a chance to win 50 percent off your drink tab. A double of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Top Shelfís top shelf, is $45. Iíll leave the math up to you.

The coolest twist is the fact that Top Shelf overlooks three ice rinks, which are often active well into the evening with ice skating, figure skating or hockey. Floor-to-ceiling windows lend the effect of being in a large suite in a small arena, with great views of the action below, right from your table.

Top Shelf has become popular for its food menu, but itís a full bar in its own right, with 20 beers and four wines on tap, along with a respectable bottle and can selection. Thereís a full liquor selection, too, ranging from well vodka to Balvenie DoubleWood.

Top Shelf shares a co-owner with Tampaís 81Bay Brew Co. in Keelan Cottle, who has assembled the loungeís Tampa Bay-centric beer list. Five of the barís 20 taps are 81Bay brews, including a house-labeled version of its Coriander Orange Wheat and flagships Coffee Porter, Sun Viking IPA and Reel Slo Irish Red. The fifth is the breweryís hockey-themed Lightning Lager, a sub-4 percent pounder that seems right at home above the ice.

Speaking of the rinks, itís obviously cold in the bar. Unless youíre coming off the ice for some post-game booze and food, you might want to reconsider a shorts-and-T-shirt combo.

Many of the patrons are actually fresh off the ice. Thereís a fun "shift change" that happens toward the end of the night, as the hockey games finish and players leave the locker rooms. What better time for the daily late-night happy hour?

Even if youíve never laced up a pair of skates, youíll have little trouble seeing why Top Shelf has become a hit in Wesley Chapel. It has all the chops of a good sports bar, with some bonus spectacle courtesy of the ice rinks. Hockey season is imminent, and hereís a place to watch both the Bolts on TV and an amateur league downstairs. Canít say that about too many places.

ó Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.

If you go

Top Shelf
Sports Lounge
3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd.,
Wesley Chapel, 33544. (813) 953-1032; topshelftampa.com
The vibe: A modern sports bar overlooking a pair of hockey rinks.

Food: Sides, appetizers and salads, $3.45-$13.95; entrees, $9.95-$16.95.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $4.75-$6.50; wine, $7-$16; liquor, $4-$12, with ultra-premiums up to $37. Happy hour: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, $4 domestic drafts, $2 off house wines and $4 premium wells.

Specialty: Youíll notice several 81Bay Brew Co. beers on draft ó Top Shelf co-owner Keelan Cottle is also a co-owner of that brewery. Check out the Top Shelf Orange Wheat, a relabeling of 81Bayís Coriander Orange Wheat, or go for the Lightning Lager, an all-malt light lager.

Hours: 4-11:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday;
11 a.m-10:30 p.m. Sunday.

 
Comments
What’s that bug gunk on your car? There’s an app for that

What’s that bug gunk on your car? There’s an app for that

Florida is rich in biomass. It’s got a lot of bugs. You’re driving down the highway, and all of a sudden — splat — a bug smacks your windshield, leaving a gooey glob on the glass. That’s the end of it from the bug’...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

All right, okay, enough, I get it: You all hate pumpkin spice. But I’ve got one request as we head into fall: Can you just let us have this? There are many things on which to heap anger and despair right now, but please, that thing does not n...
Updated: 9 hours ago
A brown rice salad with asparagus thatís a hearty side dish

A brown rice salad with asparagus thatís a hearty side dish

This fresh, hearty side dish will stand out among its richer, creamier counterparts when the holidays roll around. We achieved perfectly cooked brown rice by boiling it in abundant water. Sprinkling the rice with bright lemon juice while it was still...
Published: 09/18/18
Restaurant review: The Local doesn't stand out enough above its Tampa neighbors to make an impact

Restaurant review: The Local doesn't stand out enough above its Tampa neighbors to make an impact

TAMPA Do you have this debate? "Florida is not in the South." "Um, look at a map." I guess I am in the former camp: It seems Florida gets more Southern the more north and west you go, accents only creeping in as reliably as boiled peanuts up on the ...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18
Tampa Bay chefs get fresh platform at Bucs home games

Tampa Bay chefs get fresh platform at Bucs home games

TAMPA ó It was almost like a sitcom spit take. People in Buccaneers-red and Eagles-midnight green would walk up to the makeshift kitchen in the West Stadium Club, look at the huge poster of chef/restaurateur John Rivers, then glance at the guy in the...
Published: 09/17/18
Taste test: Frozen Italian meatballs

Taste test: Frozen Italian meatballs

In keeping with our objective of trying to make family meals a little easier this back-to-school season, our judges figured premade meatballs could serve as a basis for a variety of meals. This week, we sampled 10 brands of frozen Italian meatballs f...
Published: 09/17/18
St. Petersburg company Made Coffee expands its cold brew to all Publix stores, debuts new con leche flavors

St. Petersburg company Made Coffee expands its cold brew to all Publix stores, debuts new con leche flavors

ST. PETERSBURGYou could say that Michael Rideout and Taylor Prater have got it made. When they started in 2015, they were delivering their cold-brewed coffee by bicycle, serving it at local events from a keg hooked up to the back of the bike. This we...
Published: 09/14/18
Chefs offer up a taste of whatís coming to Sparkman Wharf

Chefs offer up a taste of whatís coming to Sparkman Wharf

TAMPA ó On Wednesday night, about 60 people got a sneak preview of what Tampa diners soon will experience at Sparkman Wharf, part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa neighborhood that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners are developing in what...
Published: 09/14/18
How to be a good host: 7 tips to follow for casual and fancy dinners alike

How to be a good host: 7 tips to follow for casual and fancy dinners alike

A couple of hours into my first time hosting a full-fledged family Thanksgiving, I completely lost it. Elbows deep in the oven, I was trying to rescue a sheet pan that had fallen off the back of the rack and threatened to ruin the entire meal. There ...
Published: 09/13/18
Local craft beer of the week: Solera Projekt #5, Dunderbršu

Local craft beer of the week: Solera Projekt #5, Dunderbršu

Mr. Dunderbakís has been a staple for beer lovers for nearly as long as Tampa has had breweries. Even back in its former location at University Mall, Dunderbakís was known as the place for import and craft beers, also doubling as a monthly meeting sp...
Published: 09/13/18