Monday, June 18, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Gigglewaters is a modern speakeasy in Safety Harbor

Every time I think the speakeasy theme is dead, I run into a place that breathes new life into it. This time, it’s Gigglewaters Social Club & Screening Room, a new addition to downtown Safety Harbor.

The term Gigglewaters was Prohibition-era slang for cocktails. But that period is only the starting point for a bar and restaurant that brings something remarkably fresh to the concept.

Like a true speakeasy, Gigglewaters doesn’t look like anything from the exterior: It’s just small blue canopy over double doors. Inside is a single room with low tables that cozy up to a wooden L-shaped bar built in the late 19th century. A plush booth anchors one of the entrance corners.

The look and feel is that of a time capsule retrofitted with modern flair. Ornate red and gold wallpaper, tin ceiling tiles and mini-chandeliers give the interior a speakeasy swank, while hanging Edison bulbs and lounge versions of pop songs playing over the speakers plant it firmly in the 21st century.

Instead of more period décor, the Gigglewaters folks opted for framed photos of film and music icons — Jack Nicholson, Prince, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Lee, Lucille Ball, Janet Leigh, among others — reimagined with full body tattoos. Why? I have no idea, but a photo of a tatted Leonard Nimoy as Spock is something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.

The art is perfect for the overall aesthetic. It’s a fun riff on an otherwise vintage look. Imagine ordering a cocktail — one you could find at the type of bar that takes itself too seriously — while saying Giggle Dippers with a straight face.

It’s also a segue into the other side of Gigglewaters: a 32-seat screening room that will feature full bar and kitchen service when it begins screening classic and cult films starting in July. First up: The Goonies.

That Gigglewaters is significantly smaller than your average neighborhood bar makes the whole space doubly impressive. The owners have done a lot with very little.

Even more impressive is the service. The newness — it opened in late May — surely plays a part, but I haven’t experienced such enthusiastic and attentive service in recent memory. You’d think the owners must have an extensive hospitality background to create this workplace culture, but they’re actually from the television industry. Some people just get it.

All would be for naught if the drink program couldn’t pull its weight, but — surprise — that’s not an issue. True to its speakeasy roots, Gigglewaters presents a list of smartly crafted cocktails that make their base spirits go down much too easily.

The spirits are of a much higher caliber than the bathtub gin that Prohibition-era cocktails originally were designed to mask, of course, but the approach is effective nonetheless. Drinks like the Wooden Kimono (bourbon, yuzu purée, fresh sours and club soda) are simple but subtly exotic, while drinking enough like a soft drink to get you in trouble if you’re not careful.

The drinks are downright fun, too. There are punchbowl drinks, coffee cocktails, a root-beer flavored boilermaker and a selection of five varieties of wood planks to choose from when ordering a currently off-menu smoked cocktail like an Old Fashioned. This fun approach would grant a mediocre cocktail program a pass, but these drinks are top-tier. Again, some people just get it.

I was surprised by the buzz surrounding Gigglewaters after just a few weeks in business, but after visiting, I understand it. By mixing elements both new and seemingly played-out in such a creative way, Gigglewaters has delivered an inspired food and drink experience.

Rarely do all of the pieces of a bar and restaurant concept come together as perfectly as they do at Gigglewaters. This one’s a true crowd pleaser.

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

Comments
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
Downtown St. Petersburg breakfast staple Dome Grill goes out of business

Downtown St. Petersburg breakfast staple Dome Grill goes out of business

ST. PETERSBURG — Longtime downtown breakfast staple Dome Grill has closed its doors.The restaurant, at 561 Central Avenue N, announced the closing on Facebook on June 10 and will not be relocating to a new location."We have nothing but love and respe...
Published: 06/13/18
Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

LAKE BUENA VISTA Disney Springs has swiftly become a playground or trial balloon for the country?s celebrity chefs. Art Smith, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Guy Fieri, Tony Mantuano, Wolfgang Puck and others are already on board, with names like ...
Published: 06/13/18
Take grilled potatoes to another level with garlic and rosemary

Take grilled potatoes to another level with garlic and rosemary

By AMERICA’S TEST KITCHENGrilled potatoes are a summer classic. We wanted to put a new spin on this dish by adding rosemary and garlic. Unfortunately, we found it was difficult to add enough flavor to plain grilled potatoes. Coating the potatoes with...
Published: 06/13/18
Recipe for Stuffed Beef Burgers

Recipe for Stuffed Beef Burgers

Hidden inside these tame-looking burgers is a smoky and spicy blend of bacon, chipotle, cheese and something unexpected: pepperoni. Because the ground beef part of these burgers is patted fairly thin, there’s less of a chance you’ll undercook it. For...
Published: 06/13/18
How to cook eggs for dinner: shakshuka, carbonara and more

How to cook eggs for dinner: shakshuka, carbonara and more

Eggs are an underutilized dinner ingredient. Aside from fried rice and a breakfast-for-dinner situation, I rarely use eggs in my cooking past the hour of 4 p.m. It makes no sense. Eggs are a great source of protein, able to be cooked in myriad ways, ...
Published: 06/12/18
Add some sweet heat to your cookout with these jerk chicken skewers

Add some sweet heat to your cookout with these jerk chicken skewers

By Matt BrooksBurgers and dogs may be the traditional staples of a cookout, but when you’re craving something more than meat on bun, a well-assembled skewer is a colorful showstopper on the grill.It’s scientifically proven that food tastes better whe...
Published: 06/12/18
Alcohol-infused ice cream and coffee bar will be downtown St. Petersburg’s newest sweet spot

Alcohol-infused ice cream and coffee bar will be downtown St. Petersburg’s newest sweet spot

ST. PETERSBURG — With coffee, ice cream and sweet liqueur, a new date-night spot is hoping to bring something sweet to downtown St. Petersburg.Beans & Barlour is a new craft coffee bar and dessert lounge set to open in July that plans to serve alcoho...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Here’s what the

Here’s what the "b" stands for in IHOb’s new (and temporary) name

That’s it, International House of Pancakes? That’s the best you can do? You announce last week that you are mysteriously changing your name from IHOP to IHOb, and every pancake eater in the land gets busy. Sample coy tweet: "Dear Internet, we abbreci...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

Going fishing is like doing your taxes. If it’s something you dive into just once a year you end up relearning the whole thing every time. Jake Whitfield eyed me, no judgment, and decided to cast for me the first time, my little wriggling greenback z...
Published: 06/11/18